12 October 2006
"No Gos" of Product Localization
Localization is the process of adapting products, marketing, etc. to "fit" local customs, languages, norms, and realities. This process is important for all companies operating internationally, including those working in the U.S. and Russia. Leo Galperin has been solving localization issues for more than a decade.
"No Gos" of Product Localization
By Leo Galperin
When international companies develop their marketing strategy, they are faced with two opposing desires: delivering a consistent, standardized product versus adapting products and collateral to specific locales. At the local level, it is always advantageous to develop a standard for a company's concepts and images, but when organizations find themselves in the international arena, they must consider the local politics, culture, language, and standards of every locale in which they sell their products.
A plethora of legends have emerged based on the idea of an American organization jeopardizing its foreign advertising campaigns by ignoring cultural or linguistic differences. The marketing of the Chevy Nova in Latin America is perhaps the most famous of these stories. In the United States, the product name "Nova" has no negative connotations; however, in Spanish it means "no go." Thus, it would be laughable if these cars were advertised as "nova" in Latin America. There is an important lesson which emerges from this example: if you are selling at the international level, you must adapt your product and strategies to the local reality.
"Localization" is the translation industry's term for the process in which products and sometimes collateral are adapted to specific locales. Different fonts and character sets, time and date formats, adapting software shortcut keys to other languages, currency differences, and maintaining a consistent terminology are a few of the many technical considerations which must be addressed in localization. It takes a team of expert engineers, translators, and project managers to seamlessly localize a product.
Furthermore, advertising slogans must be reworked so that they carry their intended message to each respective country and local audience. Literal translations are irrelevant, often yielding ludicrous results. It's imperative to implement a process which ensures that the concept of the slogan is adequately portrayed in its translated form, and that the translation is culturally appropriate.
Given all these necessary changes, maintaining a consistent set of worldwide standards for a product becomes more complex. Creating a more culturally acceptable message might seem to dilute the strength of its impact, but the cost of not doing this may considerably jeopardize a company's investments. Marketing a product requires solid, consistent definition that is also appropriate to the target audience—good localization ensures that this definition is kept consistent across cultural divisions, time after time, version after version, in a cost effective manner.
Leo Galperin is the owner of Language Connections, a multi-lingual translation agency which specializes in legal, pharmaceutical, medical, and technical translations for corporate and government clients. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617) 277-1649.
2001 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02135
Tel.: (617) 731-3510 Fax: (617) 731-3700