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In its simplest form, localisation may involve the conversion of the currency or the alteration of a punch line. On the other end of the spectrum, companies need to totally re-engineer products to suit the tastes and cultural preferences of the local market. The regular beef Big Mac will certainly not be well received in India. The McCurry may not look like a regular Indian curry, but certainly sounds a lot more appealing than the offering from a regular McDonalds in downtown LA. A reference to a king (Maharaja) will certainly turn the heads of many in India.

The need to invest in localisation

A number of companies have discovered the truth the hard way: Localisation of products can be the difference between success and failure in a new market. A foreign product in a new market may only attract the attention of those who know the product from abroad. This may result in the product being a niche product rather than appealing to the broader local market. Sometimes it may be necessary to merely translate the packaging, while other products may need total re-engineering.

The Coca-Cola approach

The Coke look and feel is largely unchanged around the world, however, those whose taste buds are a little more finely tuned, will realise that the taste varies. The variation in taste is a function of the amount of sugar added. The sweet-toothed Americans on the one end enjoy a higher sugar content beverage relative to the Asians who prefer a less sweet drink. Coke has found that a mere variation in the sugar levels is sufficient to satisfy the preferences of its global customer base. Coke, however, does have age on its side given that it has been in existence since 1886. Coke is also a bit of an exception, as few companies enjoy such global brand identity.

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You may need to go as far as changing the name of a product!

Sometimes it may be even necessary to go as far as changing the name of a product as part of the localisation drive. This may not be well received by company management who want to maintain a common brand identity across different markets. Management, however, need to realise that a name change could be the difference between failure and success in a new market. The famous English brand “Vicks” had to change their name to “Wick” in Germany as the “Vicks” pronunciation sounded too similar to a “not so polite” sexual term in Germany.

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The online approach

Localising your website is a fairly easy and cost effective way to enter a new market. This is especially true if your company is offering an online service that is scalable and can be provided from your home market. Lower international taxes and declining shipping rates also make it worthwhile to ship products abroad. Like other forms of localisation, localising a website could require simple translation or a more detailed adaption, to suit the tastes of the local market.

The Wonder Words approach to localisation

At Wonder Words, we adopt a simple, but thorough approach which can be summed up in the following key steps:

  • Each new project is assigned to a sector relevant project manager.
  • The project manager performs an initial assessment to gauge the complexity of the localisation process.
  • The project manager presents his/her findings and recommendations to the Wonder Words committee. A joint decision is reached as to the steps to follow.
  • If needed, a panel/focus group is set up with a broad spectrum of consumers to:
    • Assess the appeal of the product/service in the local market
    • Identify a suitable position in the local market
    • Assess to what extent the product/service needs to be re-engineered to suit the local preferences.
  • If the localisation process is deemed to be less complex and the product does not require re-engineering, a sector relevant localisation expert is recruited from the respective market. Key steps followed:
    • He/she will verify that the product/service is suitable for the local market
    • The brand name is tested for suitability
    • The labelling/text will be converted

The sector relevant project manager will then present the outcome to the Wonder Words panel for final sign-off. Localisation can be a very simple affordable process or a complex one, however, it needs to be recognised as an important step in the internationalisation drive!

Picture references: www.McDonalds.com, www.wick.de