Localising international campaigns

November 04, 2018

Excerpt from 'How to Wrestle an Octopus: an agency account manager's guide to pretty much everything'. Available now!
Localisation is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale.
The goal is to provide a product with the look and feel of having been created
for the target market to eliminate or minimise local sensitivities.”
 (GALA: Globalisation and Localisation Association)


AgencyLand prides itself on being able to come up with ‘concept-to-completion’ ways to sell or promote products and services for our clients or create brand awareness. But what happens when you work with a client that is based offshore and has already developed the creative and expects you to simply ‘localise’ that concept and collateral for your own market? How do you go about ensuring the localised material is going to be a success?

This type of client could be a multinational company, or perhaps a company where the head office is based overseas and they distribute their products (and promotional collateral) to various markets, including yours. The localisation requirement could be anything from a simple brochure to a whole campaign.

Localisation is considered by agency folk to be ‘not very creative’. It is true that your agency won’t be required to come up with ideas from scratch, nor needs to be concerned with design and layout. However, adapting material still requires a lot of agency expertise to ensure that it will be suitable for your local market and still retain the essence and integrity of the brand.

As an account manager, your knowledge of your client, their brand and requirements become extremely important. You will also be able to advise on the impact that localisation may have (e.g. cultural, religious, political), and be able to identify and prevent issues from arising.


Why would a company ask you to localise existing material?

  • Cost-saving. Your client will not want to pay for you to reinvent the creative-wheel when they have already produced what they consider to be acceptable material. From a local perspective, adapting overseas creative will allow more money in the budget for other promotional activity.
  • Continuity. Expecting international markets to use the same creative is a way of controlling how a brand is represented across the globe. It is an attempt at consistency and continuity.
  • Ease. If your client is a busy marketer, he (or she) may be quite happy to take the ‘easier’ road and adapt material rather than work on a campaign from scratch.


How should you start the adaptation?

  • Localisation strategy. Does your client have a localisation strategy? How robust is it? Can your agency help to craft one, or improve the strategy already in place? A localisation strategy will not be a guarantee of success, but not having one will almost guarantee failure.
  • Brand guidelines. A brand guidelines document is your handbook to ensure that your client’s brand remains solid throughout all localisation activity. As you are your client’s brand guardian, you need to become very familiar with the dos and don’ts for each brand that you are working with.  
  • How far can you push the localisation? You need to find out how far you’ll be able to bend the supplied material to fit your local market. You may need to get your final sign-off from the head office overseas, so it will be far better to understand – from the start – what you will and will not be allowed to do.
  • Showing your client added-value. Localising overseas material doesn’t provide much scope to show off your agency’s creativity, but what you can show is how much you understand your client’s business, and how much you care about how their brand will be perceived in the local marketplace. The importance of an account manager’s role in the localisation process is significant, and the value you can bring to the process should be maximised as much as you possibly can.


Considerations with localisation

  • Demographics and marketing. You’ll need to understand who the consumers are within your local market. For example, say your client is an international chain of hotels. In overseas markets, they may be considered the preferred accommodation for tourists, but in your local market, the hotel may be known as the #1 choice for business travellers. If the supplied creative targets holiday-makers, you would want to change the focus of the supplied message or risk alienating the most profitable customers within your own country. Localisation should be a marketing exercise as much as it is a production exercise.
  • Products and disclaimers. Are the promoted products the same from country to country? If you are promoting a particular product that looks slightly different in your local market, you may need to arrange for new photography or use existing photography that suits the local range. If you cannot easily (or cost-effectively) replace the images, then you may need to add a disclaimer (in small print somewhere on the collateral) that states that the actual product will be different from what is shown.
  • Imagery. Is the imagery supplied going resonate with your local market? If people are featured in the images, will they reflect the cultures of your own country? Is the scenery too ‘foreign’ to create an emotional connection? Investing in good quality, local photography can often make or break the localisation of collateral.
  • Copy. Words and their meanings differ greatly around the world. Copy that is acceptable for one market may be unsuitable (or even offensive) within another market. You should also be on the lookout for spelling differences and use of grammar. If the copy has to be translated from one language to another, it’s best to engage the services of a professional translator; which will help to ensure that the words make sense and are appropriate for your marketplace (literal translations may get you into trouble!).
  • Colours. Colours always carry strong psychological and emotional associations, and they may also have different cultural, political, or religious meanings in different countries. If you are supplied with creative in a colour that you know will not suit your local market, then you will need to change it.
  • Global appeal. Creative supplied for a brand with a truly global appeal (such as Coca-Cola) may not need much localisation at all (perhaps only spelling, pricing, and product tweaking).
  • Refusal to localise. Sometimes it is the ‘foreignness’ of a brand (e.g. the ‘European luxury’ of BMW or Versace) that will help the product to sell in overseas markets, and some brands steadfastly refuse to localise. For example, the luxury brand, Gucci, claims that “internationalism is the very essence of its glamour which is why Gucci avoids diluting it with localisation”. This is how the Gucci brand seeks to maintain its aspirational image, but this example is an exception rather than the norm.
  • Media-mix and planning. Often the localisation of a campaign comes down more to the media-mix that is chosen rather than the creative execution itself. Therefore, you may need to adjust the creative to suit the channel requirements. Strategic media planning and buying will help to bring a localised campaign to life.




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