Successful brands that experimented with entering global markets learned a long time ago that what makes them successful in the US is not always going to make them successful in other markets. Through a lot of trial and error and many failed attempts, followed by success, a lot of now global brands have figured it out. Obviously starting with a consideration of language and culture is foundational and there are many advisors out there (including us) that can help guide a company on these important foundational components. After all, if you don’t even speak the language of your customer how far are you going to get? The bigger hurdle comes in adapting your service offering or product to uniquely serve and address the needs of customers that are completely different from those of the core consumer you’ve been serving since you started offering your service or product.
In this series of blog entries we’re going to focus on individual brands that “Nailed Localization” when they went global. We’ll provide examples of where they adapted their unique product or service to achieve success in each of the markets they entered. Some examples are funny, some are surprising, some are outright genius. We hope you have as much fun reading these case studies as we did putting them together.
If you’re working at an organization that is working globally, or considering going global, and you would like some advice on your foundational work like translation and localization, let’s start a conversation!
Most Valuable Brand by Country. Source: Visual Capitalist
Let’s start by answering an important question: What is Localization?
Localization is the process of adapting a product, service, or content to meet the linguistic, cultural, and market-specific needs of a particular region or target audience. For the global brands we’re going to be focusing on, localization was a crucial strategy to ensure their offerings resonated with local consumers, fostering a deeper connection and increasing the likelihood of success in their target markets. Localization goes beyond simple translation, encompassing cultural nuances, preferences, legal considerations, and even design elements to create a seamless and authentic user experience.
At a basic level, localization involves translating content, such as websites, marketing materials, and product information, into the local language. This ensures that the brand's messaging is accessible and easily understood by the target audience. Moving beyond language, brands may adapt visuals, colors, and imagery to align with local cultural norms. For instance, the color red, often associated with luck in China, might be used prominently in marketing materials targeting Chinese consumers.
On a more complex level, global brands engage in product localization to tailor offerings to local tastes and preferences. This may involve adjusting features, functionalities, or even the physical design of a product to align with cultural expectations. For example, fast-food chains like McDonald's customize their menus to include region-specific items, acknowledging the diverse culinary preferences of their global customer base. In Japan, McDonald's offers Teriyaki burgers, catering to the local palate and reflecting an understanding of the Japanese love for unique flavors. As a prime example of successful global expansion McDonald’s is one of the companies we focused on: Global Brands That Nailed Localization Part 1, McDonald's.
In summary, localization is vital for global brands really adapting to the local culture as it goes beyond language translation, encompassing cultural, visual, and all of the other considerations of that local market. By tailoring their offerings to meet the specific needs and preferences of diverse markets, brands can establish a more authentic and meaningful connection with consumers, ultimately contributing to long-term success on the global stage.
Now that we have a better understanding of what localization is let’s get into the examples of how individual global brands navigated their own localization process as they entered global markets:
Part 1: McDonald's
As one of the most recognizable brands in the world, McDonald's is a prime example of a global brand that has adapted to local markets. This fast-food giant has restaurants in over 100 countries and territories, and while McDonald’s serves burgers and fries worldwide, they have made significant changes to their menus to cater to local tastes.
For example, in India, McDonald's serves the McAloo Tikki burger, which is made with a spiced potato and pea patty, as beef is not commonly eaten due to religious reasons. In Japan, McDonald's serves the Teriyaki Burger and Shrimp Filet-O burgers, which are unavailable in other countries. The company also adapts its menu to different dietary restrictions in different countries, such as offering halal meat in Muslim-majority countries.
Part 2: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
For KFC, localization plays a pivotal role as they expand into global markets, ensuring that their iconic blend of herbs and spices resonates with diverse tastes and cultural preferences. Let’s be honest, KFC’s take on fried chicken is almost as American as apple pie. Also, how would “Colonel Sanders” adapt as an icon to other cultures (or Ronald McDonald, Wendy, or Burger King for that matter)?
Recognizing that culinary traditions vary widely, KFC strategically adapts its menu to cater to local palates, introducing region-specific items while retaining the essence of its original offerings. Whether it's the Hot and Spicy Chicken in the United States or the Original Recipe in Japan, KFC has demonstrated a commitment to understanding and embracing local flavors.
Beyond the menu, KFC adapts its marketing strategies, translating and incorporating culturally relevant messaging and promotions to connect with consumers on a more personal level. Moreover, addressing logistical considerations, KFC navigates local regulations, ensuring compliance with dietary restrictions and adhering to quality and safety standards. By prioritizing localization, KFC not only enhances its appeal to diverse global audiences but also solidifies its position as a brand that respects and integrates the culinary and cultural tapestry of each market it enters.
Coca-Cola is another global brand that has adapted to local markets. The company has customized its marketing campaigns and packaging to appeal to local customers.
For example, in China, Coca-Cola launched a campaign that used the phrase "Taste the Feeling" in Chinese characters with special cultural significance. Coca-Cola has also adapted its flavors to local tastes, such as:
The bitter-tasting soda "Beverly Hills" flavor in Italy,
Fanta Melon Cream Soda in Japan
Fanta Pineapple in Brazil
Coca-Cola has also used local cultural events to promote its products, such as the Holi festival of colors in India, where the company launched a limited-edition bottle featuring colorful Holi designs.
IKEA is a furniture retailer known for its minimalist designs and affordable prices. IKEA is a Swedish furniture company with stores in over 50 countries. The company has done an excellent job of localizing its products to meet the needs of different markets.
In the United Arab Emirates, IKEA launched a campaign that showed its products in local homes to show how they could be integrated into local cultures. In Japan, IKEA's catalog featured products that were smaller and more compact, as Japanese homes are typically smaller than those in other countries. The company also adapts its products to local tastes, such as offering lower beds in Japan, where traditional futons are more commonly used. And in Saudi Arabia, the company has separate sections for men and women to shop comfortably, reflecting the cultural norms of the country.
These three brands are just a few examples of global brands that have successfully localized their products and services to meet the needs and preferences of different markets. By doing so, they have been able to build strong connections with customers around the world and establish themselves as trusted and respected brands.
Is Localization Important for your Success?
We hope you’ll stay tuned as we progress with this series. We also hope that you find these case studies as inspiring and interesting as we do. If you are interested in exploring translation and localization, or would like to know how you can adapt your service or product to better succeed in your global markets, contact us today to learn more.