How to unlock global markets by mastering content localization

How can your content stand out on a global stage?

February 5, 2024

What does global content mean to you?

Good question. Let me first say that any online business is inherently global. 90% of businesses sell, have buyers, and have fans in other places. However, the content I create is uniquely American, even with my awareness and education, my content is American. However, because people all over the world are reading my content, or if I am an online brand, people all over the world are shopping for or maybe buying your content, you have made the assumption that your content is good for them. You have made an assumption that your brand resonates with them and that your messaging applies to them. You have made an assumption about the way they buy, and you assume it is the same as the way people in your home market buy and feel. So, the first thing is awareness. You are online, you are global already, and the content you produce is you. It is your culture, and it is your language. Awareness that content is inherently not global, yet your business is, okay. What is the deal with global content?

There are a couple of ways you can think about it. You can kind of water down your content so that it applies to everybody, which is one of the last things we want to do as marketers. One of the things to remember is that idioms, slang, jokes, and local references can turn off a foreign market. If I am using slang in my content or talking about local references in the U.S., like talking about baseball, people in Europe might not be able to follow. There are 35 baseball idioms in the English language, American English. In American English, we talk about baseball all the time. For example, touch base and hit a home run. In other countries where people learn English, they may know the idioms, but they do not know it is about baseball because those terms do not translate. They are idiomatic, and those references do not exist in other cultures. When you start writing content and find yourself using loads of baseball metaphors, and your readers in India do not care because they play cricket, it just does not compute. This does not just apply to words but to images and colors, too. For example, the color red is super problematic in places like Africa because it is associated with mourning and death. Think about a brand that is all red, and you have a target market in Africa; something is wrong, and something is off. Images can also be challenging because images we use in American-centered content may not be great in the Middle East. Emojis are another example. I am holding up my hand, making the OK sign, but this is a vulgar one in China. If you are using emojis, colors, or images in your content, and you do not know how it lands abroad, you could be making mistakes and making people angry. You just do not know.

How do you vet your content for different audiences and test some of those problems?

Good question! On my website, I have a checklist for international writing. It is a list of things to be aware of when you are writing that will help your content be more neutral. That is one way to go, is to make your content neutral. A checklist will help you be aware of what is not neutral in your content. No language attached to any culture is neutral. For example, American English is uniquely American, but it is not neutral for Britain or Australia. There are multiple varieties of English, not just one English. If you are aware and serious about creating content for a certain market, you need a content strategy for that market. It is an adaptation of your local content strategy, but what is important is that your buyers are different. You have to profile your buyers for that market. You cannot assume that your buyers in Spain think the same way, feel the same way, buy the same way, or go to the same channels. Do not make assumptions. It is a brand-new persona. You may be targeting 15 to 22-year-olds, but they are not the same kids.

When you have a global market, and you are going to do content marketing globally, how do you make it relevant to specific geographic areas and personalize it for those people?

After awareness, you have to define your buyer for the market. Translation is the first step, but it is a process that goes a little deeper than that, and it is called transcreation. Trans means across, so creating across, creating across cultures. You are taking your American or European content, and you are recrafting it, and you are reimagining it, which can mean little changes or it can mean massive changes for that new market. It requires a specialist who is not just a translator. This is not just the bilingual sales guy in your office but a professional resource who is bilingual and bicultural. You have to understand the American Context and messaging and then adapt it to your new market. It is like a specialist resource. You can find that resource in-country or a copywriter or content marketer in-country. You can also engage with an agency that can handle that for you and who has knowledge about that country to get it right.

Now that you have figured out the distribution, what are some distribution strategies that are able to do that now that you have segmented your content and done some transcreation?

Awesome question, because that is the next step. One of the big problems with any content marketing team is creating loads of content and letting it sit there. This is a huge mistake. The last thing you want to do is bother to create and translate all this content and let it sit there. But, the distribution channels have to be strategic for that market. Consider the market and does that market use Facebook, or do they use another channel? It is different all over the world. You have to find the channels that matter for that market. Do they read email? Do they prefer texts? Do you need an SMS strategy? Do you need to run through a newspaper? What is the channel through which you will distribute that content to the market? Distribution is part of your content strategy and how to promote for that market because it is going to be different. An example is how do you get a Spanish market to look at your LinkedIn content or your Facebook or your TikTok content? You are not just translating content for your U.S. Facebook handle, but you are putting native content on your Spanish Facebook handle.

It is all about global distribution. The redistribution is massive. That said, you should not just translate for everybody, all the languages, all the countries. You need to decide where your market growth is really going to be. You must test and select a market. For example, select Spain or Mexico, translate a couple of your top pieces of content, transcreate your webpage, and put it into the market and test. If there is traction, then do more and pick another market. It is very strategic to select specific pieces, select specific markets, and select specific processes.

Do you have any recommendations about how you segment and analyze your data if I have 12 different countries I am targeting?

It is the same; you are just doing it for another market. Use your tools. It is everything times your number of markets. It is American market times, and it is doing everything that you do for your home market, again, in a new way for that new market.

Do you recommend a different brand per country, or does it make sense to have more of a global unified brand and break it out into separate languages and regions?

Global brand; local messaging. Adapting your brand is what we are talking about, but you are not getting away from who you are, which is the core brand. Let me give you an example of something that is adapted for different markets. Let us consider KFC, also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the U.S., their tagline is finger licking good, which means the chicken is so good you want to lick your fingers, right? But that is pretty slangy. That is pretty American. I do not know where else people say finger-licking good. In other countries, it may be eat chicken and you will be happy. It focuses on the positive message, but it is not about licking your fingers. In France, they changed it completely, emphasizing the uniqueness of the recipe. KFC is a savvy brand that wants to go global and sell its chicken in other markets. There is a market, but you know that the Chinese do not lick their fingers, right? This is what I mean by transcreation and adaptation for a new market.

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