Why Content Localisation Really Matters

Unsure about what localisation is? This guide can help you overcome the challenges of localising your content.

Localising your content involves paying particular attention to the language, nuance and tone of the copy, with reference to all of the particular areas around the globe that you operate in. It’s very easy to get things wrong with your copy overseas even if your methods work well at home.

Failing to tailor your copy to its international audience can do serious damage to your global image. This can have particularly detrimental effects if you’re just starting to establish your brand in other markets. With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of exactly how things can go wrong from the get-go.

Industry examples of localisation gaffes

Automotive

Japanese automotive giant Toyota famously fell foul of a localisation mishap when releasing the iconic MR2 in France. Unfortunately, no one at Toyota realised that MR2 sounds remarkably similar to the French expletive ‘est merdeux!’. Unsurprisingly, in France, the model was quickly re-marketed as simply the MR.

This just goes to show that even the biggest automobile giants can go awry when using something as simple as a name in a foreign market. Moreover, it also highlights the importance of having someone on board who really understands how to convey your message to your non-native markets.

Gaming

Although this one’s not so much of a mistake, the makers of the Nintendo DS game Fire Emblem Fates recently encountered a lot of issues with localising their game for the U.S. Entire scenes of the game were deleted, features were removed and the dialogue was sloppily cut. Overall, this made for a disjointed gaming experience for users in the U.S.

While causing offence is something which game developers want to minimise, taking localisation to excessive limits – as this example illustrates – will do you no favours. Striking the right balance between maintaining the force of your content and making it suitable for international markets is key to its success.

Technology

Electrolux are among the big tech innovators in Sweden. However, their technological prowess didn’t stop them getting localisation wrong in the U.S when marketing their vacuum cleaners.

The company’s slogan, ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ didn’t exactly go down the way they intended. As entertaining as the slip-up is to some native English speakers, it also caused great offence to others. Again, this highlights why you need to have a native speaker to hand who knows the nuances of the language you’re writing in, and so the wider cultural implications of the words you use.

Food

In the 1990s, fast food pioneers KFC’s slogan ‘fingerlickin good’ was directly translated and fed into marketing campaigns in China without appropriate localisation spot checks. The catchphrase, somewhat shockingly, read something like ‘eat your fingers off’.

Luckily big-name brand KFC were able to repair the damage done, but if you’re a small or emerging business then being spot on with your copy first time round is crucial to swaying a new audience to convert. Employing a highly skilled copywriter or strategist to do the legwork for you is far better than being laughed out of your chosen location overseas.

Medical

Well-loved cold and flu remedies brand Vicks had to change the name of their brand to Wick in German-speaking countries, to avoid the sexual connotations the words Vicks and Vick held with their new audience.

The quick change shows a dynamic branding strategy and that Vicks care about their international consumers, but this could have been avoided before any products were released into the market with the help of someone who knew the language.


With huge international markets opened up by the rise of new and emerging e-commerce channels, it’s essential for you to get the locality of your content spot on wherever it is reproduced.

What’s more, the examples detailed above just go to show, that even the biggest international brands can make big errors when it comes to multilingual content.

WooContent’s team of copywriters, editors and content strategists are experts in their fields. Their scrupulous approach will guarantee that your copy is localised correctly for the market you’re releasing it to. To find out more about the copywriting services we offer, get in touch today.

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