Defining a localization strategy: Translating logos across cultures

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for logo design in your localization strategy. They key is to do your research to ensure your logo as universally appealing as possible.

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Logos are a key element of a comprehensive localization strategy because they proudly boast your cultivated attitude and brand promise – they represent everything your company stands for. But what do you do if these logos do the exact opposite in another country? What if your cool, fresh image falls flat on the international scene because you failed to address that aspect of marketing localization?

Your logos are an integral part of your company brand. A good universal design works well across all cultures. Therefore, it’s important to take your company and product logos into consideration when you’re defining your localization strategy for entering new markets across the globe.

What’s in a name?

If your company or product name is a core part of a logo, you may need to think about localizing it for certain markets. Generally, it’s ideal to keep names in the source language to create worldwide brand recognition. However, if your organization’s company or brand names don’t transcend well into new markets, you may want to consider translating logos or significantly modifying them if needed.

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There are many examples of company and brand names that have been localized for international markets. For example, Coca-Cola adjusted its company name as part of its overall localization strategy for China, because the direct translation for Coca-Cola in Chinese is “bite the wax tadpole.” Obviously this isn’t ideal, so Coca-Cola decided to change their iconic product name to something a little more consumer-friendly for this particular market. The rebranded name it selected translates to “delicious, able to enjoy,” which is enticing to Chinese consumers. The company also opted to use Chinese characters in its logo to implement complete marketing localization.

Another example of a company that changed its name (and logo) for a specific country is Glade. For Brazil, Glade opted to alter the spelling of its brand name, because in Portuguese, the its original name is pronounced as “glad.” Thus, the company decided to change the spelling of its name to “Gleid” to ensure Brazilian consumers pronounce the brand the same way it is said in English. Compared to Coca-Cola, this is a much different approach to localization marketing and maintaining brand identity.

It is important to do your homework to determine if your company and brand names will work well in other countries or need to be adjusted as part of your overall localization strategy. Good insight to help you make informed decisions about your logo designs and their global effectiveness can be gained by conducting market research in each country your organization plans to enter.

Images can paint the wrong picture

Names aren’t the only component of your logo to consider when defining a localization strategy. As part of your market research efforts, you should also make sure your logo images aren’t going to miss the mark. You want your logo to strike the right chord with locals—no matter what country they are in—because even images can be interpreted differently from culture to culture.

For example, a US-based company named RJ Metrics learned the hard way when its logo—a dodecahedron (a geometric shape with 12 faces)—was declared to look like underwear by buyers in the United Kingdom. Not wanting to be the butt of a joke (pardon the pun), the company did research to determine how to adjust its logo so it resonated correctly on a global scale. Using global customer surveys, RJ Metrics gathered feedback on its logo to better understand the extent of the problem. Based on the survey results, the company reworked its logo by changing the angle of the design and making the lines thinner so it didn’t conjure up images of undergarments. These minor changes made the logo more universal across different cultures.

If RJ Metrics had started by conducting research about how its logo would resonate in other countries, its approach to localization marketing would have been stronger and could have saved the company a lot of embarrassment and extra work. This is a great example of why you may want to test your logo in new markets ahead of time so you can put out small fires before they become big problems.

A colorful world

The colors used in your logos are another factor to consider as you expand your global footprint and develop your localization strategy, as colors generally do not have universal meanings. In Iran, for instance, green is highly applauded and evokes joy and success, but in China, this color symbolizes disgrace. However, selecting colors for logos can be tricky. Just because a culture commonly associates a color with a certain emotion or meaning, doesn’t mean it can’t be used. The need to change logo colors may depend on how superstitious a culture is. This makes doing market research critical.

Ideally, you want your brand colors to stay the same, because according to the Color Marketing Group, color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent. However, if the color is going to create a negative brand image for a particular culture, you may want to address the issue by altering the color scheme.

Another option is to keep your logo colors intact, but include more culturally appropriate core colors in your localized marketing materials and packaging. For example, UPS keeps its logo brown across all cultures and locales, but its multilingual websites are primarily blue, which is considered one of the most universally appealing colors.

Logo design that resonates in every language

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for logo localization. It all boils down to making your logo as universally appealing as possible so you can get achieve worldwide recognition, without turning heads in the wrong direction. They key is to do your research on marketing localization ahead of time so your organization is not blindsided by a logo design that evokes cultural indifference to your brand.

Did you include your logo in your localization strategy? What factors do you consider when localizing marketing materials? We’d love to hear about your experience.

Published on    Last updated on 04/03/2019

#Global Marketing, #Translation&Localization

About the author

Gretchen Sampair is a Digital Communications Specialist at AMPLEXOR International and based in Wisconsin. Gretchen joined AMPLEXOR in July 2017 and specializes in marketing content for global content solutions.

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