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4 Creatives speak about tackling Localization vs Culturalization

 4 Creatives speak about tackling Localization vs Culturalization

Localization is a buzzword that many brands and agencies tentatively tip toe around. Global expansion is daunting and without recognizing the importance of localization, companies will never be able to find a place for themselves in the global market.

There are many aspects to understand when trying to localize a global campaign, and more so, it is vital to get them right. Localization is often the key component of any effective global campaign, and even if a brand is able to prioritize localized messaging, their method of adaptation still requires an intricate and nuanced cultural approach. An effective localized market strategy entails not only a linguistic transfer but the cultural embodiment of a market and this is where the merger of the terms, “localization” and “culturalization” comes to the forefront.

We spoke to creatives and strategists from agencies across the globe and got some insight on what localization and the rise of culturalization means in the creative space.

The importance behind localizing international campaigns cannot be ignored. If a company’s brand messaging is not tailored to the local nuances of the local market, they will not be able to firmly connect themselves with their target audience. Matthys Ras, owner of Globecreative, believes that campaigns must be able to connect to a diverse range of identities.

He says, “There is a need to understand the differences between these identities and to implement them in custom campaigns. By this, I don’t just mean to customize per country. International campaigns need to prioritise customization per culture, beliefs and aspirations within the respective countries.”

It is not enough for a global brand to simply adapt language and take a plunge. Careful consideration of a local market’s cultural characteristics must also be taken.

Each country and differing areas within a country have a different perspective, baseline audience, social norms, and even regulatory. If a brand communication isn’t further tailored to the specific local audience it seeks to connect with, messaging may go wide of the mark.”

-Doug Vanisky, Creative Director of Dogstar Creative

“Campaigns need to capture the essence of culture more effectively. Campaigns are strengthened when the ‘big idea’ is able to encompass an aspect of local culture and can translate this aspect of culture further into the modern era.”

 -Jabulani Dhlakama, Creative Director, (Formerly DDB Zambia)

The controversial aftermath of the recently launched, then pulled, Pepsi ad was an important lesson on how localizing and culturalizing, or the lack thereof, can make or break a brand. Many brands, like Pepsi, have missed the mark when trying to speak directly to their target population and this can have an undesirable effect on the brand’s image.

Vanisky says, “if the messaging doesn’t connect with the region, or worse, is offensive to a local culture, this runs the risk of doing the brand real harm (at least on the local level).”

With this in mind, such failures can also give brands the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The next time a brand or agency tries to fit square ideas and campaigns into ‘round’ holes, they can, instead of forcing it, reflect on the burn of the previous campaign and do some much needed research.

“Generalizing a campaign to “fit all” is like admitting you don’t know your market.”

-Matthys Ras

For a brand, conquering the global market is no easy feat, especially if a marketing team is committed to staying true to their brand. Often a complex relationship exists between ensuring a global campaign is locally strong and relevant across multiple markets and ensuring a global campaign stays consistent and clear.

A global brand that seems to have risen above this challenge is Coca-Cola. Coca Cola has taken the right steps to ensure their renowned brand is culturally relevant and this has helped the brand retain international success as well as loyal consumers globally. Matthys Ras believes that, “[Coca-Cola] has been able to creatively connect with local people, energy and music, while still maintaining the creative structures of their brand personality”.

“Coca-Cola! I believe the reason why they do it so well is that the local nuances are just showcased. It’s not like they are delivering commentary the way Nandos does it. If they did comment on it, it would be too intrusive. They merely mirror our demographic – and it’s enough.”

-Luandri Smith, Brand Strategist

 Coca-Cola has also managed to form important alliances with local partners who have seamlessly tied the brand’s communication into local culture. Partnership is key, even for a local creative who might be well placed, and in touch, to help global companies connect their brands to local nuances.

“I don’t have the insight to comprehensively translate [local] nuances. My paradigm is very much dictated by my culture, bilingual nature, religion, upbringing and geographic location. If I would collaborate with a variety of different people, I would be better equipped.”

 -Luandri Smith, Brand Strategist

If localization were a ship set to sail, culturalization would be its captain, in control of its direction, managing its technicalities and ensuring it reaches its destination. Jabulani Dhlakama, creative director of (Formerly, DDB Zambia), challenges the current ways in which international companies attempt to ‘localize’ through simply translating language, tweaking a headline or merely replacing individuals in adverts with locals.

He highlights culturalization as a tool that is slightly more impactful than localization. He says, “culturalization is when the big idea is extracted from a population’s cultural experiences while localization is simply tweaking the language or image to suit a market. Culturalization is more powerful and will help brands get closer to their target market because people will feel this brand is intrinsically connected to them.”

We are so mixed, brands should culturalize their campaigns to “attract” customers, rather than “target” them.”

– Matthys Ras

So instead of a daunting affair, expanding a company’s brand into multiple global markets can be a journey that reveals less risk and more reward. If in doubt, companies should employ the number one rule that our creatives believe is vital to follow when positioning a brand to fit into local environments… Research!

To read the full interview sessions please check out the page here []

Image supplied by Shutterstock

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