Following our recent guide to using translators for international content marketing, we continue to look at international marketing, this time looking at the internationalisation approach used by larger organisations that are present in multiple countries around the globe. We begin by providing an overview of the approach and will follow this in the coming weeks with tips and guidance on the two main areas of deploying and executing this strategy.
Internationalisation (which is often shortened to i18n) has been around for a number of years now and is increasingly being seen as the most effective way for international brands to achieve two main objectives, namely:
- Create a global brand
- Improve customer experience and transformation
The process itself is to plan and implement products and services at a global or central level so that they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures; a process called localisation. The internationalisation process is sometimes called translation or “localisation enablement”. While i18n is typically used for website translation, software and/or app localisation is used when brands seek to:
- Launch new or existing products in a new international environment
- Avoid dealing with costly, last-minute issues during the localisation process
- Sell a product or service with language-specific functionality to address new markets
The ultimate goal behind this approach is digital transformation, to ensure each customer has the optimal experience when interacting with the brand. A simple concept that in practice is mastered by few.
A 2017, a market data survey undertaken by E consultancy and Lionbridge, ‘International Content – Monetizing global content assets and measuring success’ highlighted the gap between those successfully following the i18n process and those who are looking to employ the method more fully. From a survey group of 278 North American companies with revenues in excess of $250M, only 22% identified as having an ‘excellent’ ability to internationalise content successfully and measure this success. These were deemed the ‘leaders’. The remainder, tagged the ‘mainstream’, was split 41% saying good, 27% OK and 9% poor.
One of the top three challenges that hindered these brands’ expansion into other markets was the ‘translation of content at scale’. A total of 23% identified this as a major problem. Furthermore, 18% of leaders and 24% of the mainstream said it remains an issue. To put that in perspective, a total of 63 companies with revenues in excess of $250M struggle with the demands of translating content for different markets.
The survey indicates that these translation problems are resolved at a local level. The survey supports this, as 52% of leaders say they used simplified grammar and vocabulary that can be translated more easily in local markets, compared to only 10% of the mainstream. To put that into context, only 54 brands out of 278 make allowances at a global level for content that will be translated at a local level. Localisation still has to pick up the bulk of the challenge to adapt content for local markets, which includes translating it appropriately and also coping with the volume of content. Whilst this shows that there is a consideration for translation challenges at a local level, we can see the majority of these solutions still fall short.
Global & Local
Marcia Riefer Johnson, author and former editor of the Content Marketing Institute, used a fantastic analogy in her article ‘How to create unified content that works in diverse global markets’, comparing a body’s circulatory system to global and local teams combining to create a successful content marketing process. The key aspect being the bio-directional nature of content and how content can, and should, change between global and local offices:
- Marketing headquarters pumps content, messaging and brand guidelines to local offices, the way the heart pumps blood.
- The system works only when the heart uses what the extremities (local offices) deliver back, to inform new phases of content and initiatives
Seems simple enough but there is still a proliferation of global teams dictating to local teams without allowing the flexibility for the local teams to adapt the messaging culturally or technically, to inform the next iteration of content. This can be as simple as changing a global image to one more locally appropriate and/or altering the phrasing of messages to deliver the same meaning, rather than using a literal – and, crucially, less effective – translation of the global message. From the very the outset, the importance for any localisation approach and its success is to get the strategy and thinking right from day 1.
In the second part of this mini-guide we will detail the recommended approach for setting up cultural and language elements at a global level, ready for content to be created and deployed at local level.
We recently published a guide to using translators for international content marketing. If you want to access the guide in its entirety, please download it here. Alternatively, if you have any questions please feel free to contact us.