We’ve all heard that looks aren’t everything, right? Well, that’s just not the case when it comes to your brand and how it’s perceived by international audiences. When your global success depends on how well your customers respond to you, image is everything.
Because websites and mobile apps tend to be your customers’ first encounter with your brand, it’s important that you make the right impression.
Branding these tools for global audiences can be tricky. You want them to maintain your company look and feel but meet local user requirements as well. Each region you target has its own preferences and expectations—which requires a unique localization strategy.
Styled for success: Get to know your audience
Designing your website or mobile application without understanding your target demographic is risky at best. Though the website or app may be aesthetically beautiful, it may not be well received or serve its intended function in other countries.
To properly localize these platforms you must thoroughly research the cultural nuances
for insight into what each locale prefers when it comes to design, color schemes, and even page layout on the screen. It is important to understand what each audience expects when they access a website or app.
People in some countries (such as Japan and Greece) typically prefer more images over text, while others (such as inhabitants of Scandinavian nations) generally prefer the opposite.
Colors alone have widely divergent meanings depending on the culture. For example, though you may favor a minimalistic all-white design for your website and apps, that color may not be ideal for an audience in India, where white has strong connotations of death.
The key is an individualized localization strategy—developing a local experience for every region you’re targeting. You don’t need a complete rebranding or unique design for each culture. The trick is designing for individual audiences while preserving your brand identity. It’s a delicate balance.
Localized design, one consistent brand: Understand important attributes
What brand features are uniquely you? A color, an icon, a feeling? Your brand’s got style that has to be preserved and recognized as you expand globally. You don’t want your image diluted to the point where customers don’t understand who you are; that goes against the whole point of branding.
To master your localization strategy and keep consistent branding, you should identify which attributes to maintain and which to alter. Ask yourself what key elements are necessary to make your message resonate with a given audience. Take stock of your favored content and imagery—your entire brand look in all facets of your marketing. Assess how essential they are to your brand identity to determine whether you can discard some elements if they don’t fit in with a certain culture’s stylistic preferences.
For instance, images of families may be important to include in support of your brand identity. To better appeal to an audience such as Norwegians, you could include fewer images while leading with copy that announces special products for family fun. With this adjustment you’re still holding true to your brand look, but adapting it to suit your audience’s visual preferences.
A distinct style and voice: Carry it across international borders
Style and tone are important parts of your localization strategy. You want to be consistent with your company brand across cultures, but it’s also essential that the style and tone are conveyed and understood correctly in each locale.
It’s important to create translation style guides and glossaries
—with feedback from your in-country reviewers—so your distinct voice carries through to your translated content appropriately. These tools educate linguists on your brand preferences so they can keep these elements in mind during the localization process.
You might also create graphic design style guides as part of your localization strategy to help define how your assets should look. Using this resource, you can specify visual style requirements for designers. For example, you may indicate whether it is important for your mobile app to tie in your brand’s colors and whether all your content includes your logo at the top right of the page.
These tools can help ensure that users don’t encounter different wording, tones, or styles between your localized website and your mobile apps. After all, creating a positive user experience encompasses all interactions with your company, and that definitely includes the visual component.
Think you’ve got form and function? Test to make sure
Not to be discounted from your localization strategy—testing functionality
as well as a final review ensure your content lays out correctly in the localized version of your website or mobile app. End result? You’re unveiling your brand in a good light and turning heads in new markets.
functionality singles out elements such as your mobile app’s user interface and determines whether your product has necessary locale features for each target market.
These would include things such as input and keyboard support for the target language, directionality, calendars, numeric elements, and time and date.
A final review
brings native language speakers into the mix. Your global website or app can function without a glitch, and it can even echo your branding. But if the translated copy or localized images don’t make sense to the intended audience, you’re still missing the mark. With native in-country reviewers, message effectiveness can be evaluated in the context of where the localized elements appear in the user interface so that necessary changes can be made to ensure that what you’ve produced resonates with locals.
The time you spend primping your brand for each target market is not in vain. It’s crucial. You want all your customers—from every country—to have an emotional connection with your brand. A solid localization strategy along with maintained brand attributes can help you put your best foot forward as you enter new international markets.
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To learn tips for effectively localizing all your global marketing efforts, check out this article: "Global marketing campaigns: Is your approach personalized for each locale?
If you have created a website or mobile app for international audiences, what steps did you take to maintain your brand qualities while meeting local expectations? Please offer your insights in the comments section.
Rachel Chilson is a marketing communications coordinator for Sajan, a leading language translation services provider with offices around the globe. She writes about global marketing, social media and more on the company's blog.