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10 Years of Localization: a look back

So much has already happened in 2020. It has marked the beginning of the new 2020s decade in dramatic fashion. As we look back on the last ten years, it almost feels like we are living in a whole new world. The 2010s was the decade that saw the translation industry become dominated by machine translation behemoths as Google, Microsoft, and even Amazon launched competitive machine translation engines. It was also the decade that saw a huge increase in content that is highly adapted to each individual country and region. Gone are the big global campaigns of the past. Now localization really is about being local. We look at how that’s come about…

Smart is better

Ten years ago, smart phones were still the province of early adopters. Looking back, 2010 was the year where smart phone sales started to rise exponentially around the globe. Then came social media. 2010 was the year that Instagram launched, six years after Facebook (2004), four years after Twitter (2006), and one year before Snapchat (2011). While they all started off as purely private spaces where people could connect and communicate with each other, it wasn’t long before big brands started to realise that that was where the money was. 

That has really been the biggest change when it comes to localisation in the world of marketing. Ten years ago, everyone was talking about transcreation: creatively translating content so it was adapted to the local market. This might revolve around campaigns and slogans: TV and print advertising. For the more in-depth campaigns, there were brochures and leaflets. 

Today, everyone is talking about “created” content: content that is written in the target language, without a source. This kind of content is informal, chatty, and entirely targeted at social media users. It simply makes no sense to create a tweet and then translate it into 13 different languages. 9 times out of 10 the nuances won’t work, and neither will the hashtags. If you want to trend locally, you need to be using a locally trending hashtag. And then there’s the local approach to “text speak” and emojis… 

In many ways this is completely unrelated to translation. Nevertheless, translation companies have linguists who have local knowledge at their fingertips, and years of experience translating the messages of brands into messages that will resonate with their intended target audience. You could say it is a natural progression in the face of machine translation taking over the actual task of translation: more and more linguists are finding themselves providing the local knowledge and market research for brands to succeed locally, and so build their success globally.

Socially influenced

To really make your brand appeal to the local market, you need to infiltrate social media on the ground. In the West, this means Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In Southeast Asia, the focus is on WeChat and Weibo. Wherever you want to reach in the world, you’ll need influencers (another 2010s invention) to retweet and share your messages, maybe even post about your products. To reach the influencers you need… yes that’s right. Local specialists in the latest trends and market research. People who know what’s hot in a country right now, and who the bloggers that everybody’s talking about are. 

Influencers have a huge impact on consumers shopping choices. In a survey by Rakuten Marketing, 80% of consumers made a purchase recommended by an influencer by clicking on the link or image. With figures like that, brands simply cannot afford to ignore the impact of influencers on the brand experience. And to get influencers on board… you need a relevant, popular online presence across the main social media platforms. 

Global yet local

For many companies, this seems like a huge change, and one their marketing teams simply cannot keep up with. The world of digital media and social media marketing has been described as the Wild West for marketers. But as everyone knows, there are fortunes to be made in the Wild West! It is all about seizing the moment and being at the forefront of new trends. To do that on a global level, you really need local experts at all levels that are ready to get out there and create a storm of hashtags and emojis that will put your brand centre stage.