Beyond translation: A new era approach to insight-driven localisation

For the latest instalment of our Next Gen Global Marketers interview series, we wanted to focus on an often underrated but vitally important aspect of global marketing – localisation. And who better to tell us all about next gen localisation than our very own Nara Cravanzola, Head of the Creative Adaptation and Transcreation team here at Freedman?

Our Head of Marketing, Eleonore Maudet, squeezed a quick video call into Nara’s busy schedule to find out the following…

EM: Localisation is quite a broad term encompassing transcreation, adaptation, creative copywriting and translation… But what does next generation localisation mean to you?

NC: Localisation is all the things that you’ve just said, sure. But ultimately, localisation is about strategy. It’s about media. It’s about consumer behaviour. It’s about personalization and it’s about volume. Right now, as we speak, there are so many emerging media platforms that consumers are engaging with – TikTok, Twitch, Instagram, YouTube… You name it. And localisation is about understanding all of these channels and their tone of voice. It’s about preserving the brand identity too, and making sure that the localised message delivers on business objectives. The objectives are either awareness or sales – objectives, as far as brands are concerned, are still the same. And in the end brands will want to see conversion. So localised content is most valuable if it delivers on these objectives.

The thing to remember is that localisation goes beyond just copy. It’s not just doing translation. It’s also data, operations, engineering… So I think when people limit localisation to just transcreation and adaptation, it’s quite redundant. It’s too limiting. I mean, translation is just the basic tool. It’s a vehicle. A lot of thought and strategy needs to go into the localisation process prior to even getting started on translation. That’s how your localised content can deliver on the objectives you set. That’s how you can talk to the consumer. That’s what next gen localisation means to me.

EM: And I guess in the digital age, you need to have a distinct strategy for each channel?

NC: 100%. In the old days, the target audience used to be divided following socio-economic categories – gender, age… Now, you have to be a lot more granular. You need to understand consumer behaviour. What makes the consumer tick. And this can lead to some surprising brand collaborations. Take one of our clients, for example, the streaming platform Twitch. So what does a streamer do? They stream content, yes, but they might also reach out for a takeaway at the same time. There are so many different aspects to consumer behaviour in one moment in time. And the brands that understand this are those that localise content carefully, making sure that they are reaching out to their target audience, with channel-specific messaging, at the right moment.

Too many brands just undervalue the localisation process altogether. That’s a complete waste. There is so much work that goes into content creation – so if you don’t invest in localisation, all your efforts are in vain. The same amount of effort needs to be put into localisation as into content creation. And it’s about that broader definition of localisation too, so incorporating data science, engineering, operations into your localisation process. That’s how you can solve a brand’s business challenge.

EM: What technology is indispensable to the modern localisation expert?

NC: We use software, of course. The increasing volume of content and channels means that software is absolutely necessary to automate part of the process at least, using a CAT tool or CMS system. Technology brings cost efficiency, speed to market, and brand consistency. Technology has no borders – it makes the world smaller. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, you can go global thanks to technology. You’ve got to use technology across a number of platforms – CRM, CMS, publishing platforms, and so on. It’s impossible given the volume to do everything manually… things would literally get lost in translation and you’d lose all consistency.

Any brand that’s serious about their global marketing will require that their localisation partner use solid technology, as it’s the only way to hold all the information in a consistent way and deliver at speed. Especially now that every brand needs to be fast enough to publish content based on weather conditions or the latest score of a game. We use Wordbee, it’s vital to us. Of course, it’s not just about having the right tool, it’s what you do with it. We choose to use off-the-shelf technology rather than build our own, so we can always have the latest in tech. And it’s our responsibility to push these off-the-shelf solutions, to make sure that they keep innovating and understand our needs right now and in the future.

EM: Onto my next question. Where do you think localisation is heading in the future?

NC: I believe more and more content creation will be automated. I think it’s inevitable with the proliferation of digital channels and connected devices. Even a smartwatch can become a platform for advertising and localised content. Not to mention social platforms. And I think data will become even more important. You know, sometimes you localise content and it just doesn’t perform. We can’t afford that anymore. We need to see tangible results from localised content.

Once content is launched it needs to be monitored through a consumer behaviour lense. From there you gather learnings – repeat what works, stop what doesn’t. And that’s possible thanks to digital and will become a lot more specific in the future. With digital channels, you know straight away whether your content is attractive or not. Yeah, let’s use the word attractive. Does it attract the consumer? Is the consumer engaging with the content? And you know because there will be an action straight away, captured within the digital world. So you can gather the data and know at a very granular level what, within that piece of localised content, is attractive to your target audience. I believe the data processing stage will reduce as data science develops. So, very soon you’ll have instant automated adjustment of your localised content based on local findings. That’s how I see the future of localisation. Data driven.

EM: At Freedman, we constantly strive to stay ahead of the game. Can you share some examples of how this future forward thinking is instilled in our localisation practices?

NC: Our philosophy is about leaving the old ways of thinking behind. In the CAT team, we constantly keep an eye on the ever-changing advertising landscape to identify any new opportunities for brands.

So, for example, not that long ago, we decided to modernise our approach to SEM localisation. SEM localisation needs to be more than just Google Analytics and the keywords that you think people are searching. It’s also about drawing on individual market insights, industry trends and consumer search behaviour. It’s about bringing the brand story to life and appealing to the consumer. In the CAT team, we constantly monitor the latest media platforms and trends. Then we go deeper. We want to find out more. Okay, this is a new media platform – but what brands will be interested in this new media platform? What is the target audience for this platform? How do they talk? Why do people use this platform? And we don’t just wait for our clients to come to us with a brief – we test the platforms, we get to know them inside and out, so that we can recommend them to our clients and are ready to go when any new brief comes in.

We’re always innovating. Even if we use off-the-shelf technology, we will always push the engineers to add more functionalities to the technology – to help streamline workflow processes and communications. We also work hard at making technology more user-friendly, both for our writers and clients. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to be forward-thinking, as you’re constantly challenging yourself. But that’s what makes our job so interesting – thinking ahead, always learning. If your mind is in the right place and you put enough effort into it – chances are that you’ll do well.

EM: Okay, now on to our last question. Can you share three pieces of advice with global marketers on how to make an impact in a fast-changing global context?

NC: Right now, it’s the war of the social platforms. Brands that are fast enough to reach all these platforms with personalised content are the brands that deliver on their objectives. So here are my three pieces of advice to make a real impact locally:

  1. Find a trusted localisation partner. I emphasise the word partner. You must treat them as a partner if you want to get quality and impactful localisation – so that means briefing them in detail on your strategy and business objectives.
  2. Use your localisation partner to build a strong global-local strategy. They can advise you best on how to make your content work in-market, using insights into local consumer behaviour, while maintaining brand consistency of course.
  3. Work on the data – no matter how good your localisation and strategy are, you need to validate them through data. Give your localisation partner all the data they need to constantly test and learn and react real-time to a fast-changing world.

Looking for a trusted localisation partner who can help you make your content work everywhere? Discover our solutions to your global marketing challenges.