Speaking the same language as our audience is essential when communicating a message. There is no doubt about this. But if more than making ourselves understood, we want to convey certain feelings, something else is needed.
Today we are going to see what are the differences between translating and localizing, two concepts that can be confused but are actually very different, besides the importance of transcreation in the entire content adaptation process.
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What do we mean by product localization in Marketing?
Localization (or regionalization) consists in adapting a product or marketing campaign to a specific market and its audience. Unlike the translation process, where we make an attempt to maintain the meaning of the original text as much as possible, during localization we do not only take into account the target language: we will also consider the culture and context in which it will be included.
Although translation has always been present, what we understand by localization did not develop until the 1980s, with the rise of digital content. Here it is no longer useful to only change some words for others, but many other factors must be considered: images, currency, units of measurement, date formats, even colors or the name of our product itself may require modifications when targeted to a concrete region or specific market.
Why is it so important to localize a product?
One of the examples that best shows us the importance of adapting a message to a specific audience is found in the Bible. The most translated book in the world also knows about localization: in its adaptation to the Inuit language, the Lamb of God became a Seal of God in order to transmit the docile character of an animal that does not exist in the polar areas. Instead of being faithful to the original meaning, in this case it is more important to prioritize the reader’s understanding and evoke a feeling that they would never understand otherwise.
One of the main advantages of localization, therefore, would be the greater acceptance of our message in the target audience. Especially in the marketing field, knowing how to connect with the target audience is essential to achieve the effectiveness we pursue. Marketing is not only about reporting qualities: it is about evoking feelings, transmitting confidence, persuading and convincing.
By dedicating time and effort to the localization process, we manage to break down an initial barrier with our public, generating trust in our brand and projecting a feeling of closeness in the local market of a given region. And it goes without saying that this will end up reflected in an increase in the percentage of sales.
In a digital environment, in addition, the importance of always speaking like any local resident takes on a new dimension: it is necessary not only for the public, but also for SEO.
Nothing better than using the same terms as our clients in the search engines so that they can reach us, achieving the online visibility we are looking for. That is why it will be necessary, among other things, to identify the keywords not at a language level, but considering a particular country or concrete region.
As if that were not enough, thanks to localization we will avoid having duplicate content, one of the most frequent penalties for Google.
Common errors when localizing products
The absolute faith in translation tools:
Automatic translation tools and online dictionaries greatly facilitate the work of translators and can immediately answer specific questions. In addition, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, it is not only possible to translate isolated words, but do it within a certain context.
This is the case of Google Translate or DeepL, two of the most popular automatic translators that have in common the use of neural networks to translate full texts, although they work slightly differently.
- Google Translate takes translations of texts from the United Nations and the European Union as its base. This tool can translate up to 119 languages, as well as voice and text from images.
- DeepL uses the Linguee database, whose translations come from other web pages of all kinds. It translates into 11 languages and is not capable of translating texts in images or voice, but it achieves greater coherence when it comes to colloquial and double meaning texts.
As we can see, these are very powerful translation tools. However, placing all our trust in them without any human supervision can be too risky, especially if we want to place our message within a certain context.
And this leads us to the next error in product localization, also a very frequent one.
The lack of research of the target culture:
A message in Spanish cannot be the same for a campaign in Spain as for any other country in Latin America, even being the same language. The content must also be adapted on a cultural level.
Here is where the transcreation process must take place. Rather than looking for a literal equivalence of the message in another language, we must maintain the style, the intention, the tone. And that is why a human touch that interprets and knows the target culture is essential.
The creativity and wit of the transcreator play here such an important role as to try to replace it with automatic translation tools or by underestimating the context of our target audience.
What’s in a name?: some examples
As we anticipated, the localization of a product or service may require modifications even in its own name, in order to adapt it to a specific market.
Some may see this as excessive, or perhaps ridiculous, so we will see some examples in which it was essential to make changes of this type.
At Mitsubishi they were inspired by the leopardus pajeros or pampas cat to name the first Japanese off-road vehicle with independent front suspension, among other characteristics.
Everything was OK, until it reached the Spanish-speaking market, where it has to be renamed Mitsubishi Montero, because the word pajero means “wanker” in Spanish.
The name chosen for the SEAT Málaga may seem totally harmless since it comes from a Spanish city, like the other models from the same car company.
However, when it was launched in Greece, the word “Malaga” was too reminiscent of μαλάκα (malaka), which in Greek sounds as inappropriate as the Mitsubishi Pajero in Spain… For this reason, it was renamed SEAT Gredos in the Hellenic country.
There is another example in the automotive industry: the case of the Hyundai Kona, whose name comes from an important tourist area on the island of Hawaii.
The Kona, although in Portugal it was renamed Hyundai Kauai, continues to generate many jokes in Galicia, where the official language of this Spanish region was not taken into account by the South Korean company. That is why it still presented in this area with the Kona original name that means “vagina” in the Galician language.
So, is localization essential?
Having to transcreate a campaign implies more costs and time spent than if we limit ourselves to carrying out a simple translation. We are talking about a different procedure, in which it is necessary to adapt a message to a new audience, practically starting from scratch and managing to transmit a series of feelings closely and locally.
But if just for saving time and money we forget to transmit these feelings, our campaign will be anything but effective, since the main purpose of our message will be lost along the way.
Therefore, to know how important it is to invest in localization and transcreation, perhaps we should ask ourselves the following question: Is it enough for us to inform our audience or do we also want to evoke a feeling?
In the first case, it will be enough to translate our message, while in the second the localization will be unavoidable.