Localization: Reasons And Structures

Localization: Reasons And Structures
Summary: Localization in the twenty-first century is an important process that every serious content developer should consider.

Localization Framework

It is difficult in content creation to describe why some context may make sense to a certain audience and make no sense to another. Netflix, the streaming service, has become synonymous with diverse content due to its ability to incorporate the subtle differences in cultures with localization. The streaming service continues to engage viewers using actors, scenes, and content from across different regions. It does all this while maintaining its global standards. Could it be the reason why its growth cannot be matched? Your guess is as good as mine.

Reasons For Localization

The slight nuances in content creation are significant, if not critical, in content engagement. This makes it very difficult to replace the firsthand experience of your international audience via research alone. Machine translating tools, like Google Translate, WordLens, or the Bing Translator app, have come a long way and are helping in many instances to create translated content. In our view, such tools are indispensable when conducting translations. However, it is important to note that localization includes both translation and adjusting for cultural nuances. Localization is therefore not limited to translation.

Human translators without context can also make mistakes when being too literal. In one famous example, a global banking organization launched a $10 million (£6.8 million) rebranding, back in 2009, for, among other reasons, experiencing difficulties with its former "Assume Nothing" slogan. The phrase had been mistranslated as "Do Nothing" in some territories. Imagine those territories that got the mistranslated slogan. The impact may have been devastating. Establishing a trusted pair of eyes who can ensure the quality and accuracy of what you produce for your international market can only be viewed as a prerequisite.

Case Studies

Consider the excerpt from a course that we were curating for a "driver safety" program. The original content was framed from an American point of view.

1. First Scenario: "Distractions While Driving A Car"

  • Original
    "It takes five seconds to write a text message. If a driver writes a text message while driving at 55mph, he would be driving the car the equivalent of a football pitch with his eyes closed!"

This statement is easy enough to understand. We decided to test this scenario and adapted it to our localization parameters.

  • Localized
    "It takes five seconds to write a text message. If a driver writes a text message driving at 90 km/hr, he would be driving the car the equivalent of a standard FIFA soccer pitch with his eyes closed!"
  • The Work
    • Converted 55mph (rounded off to the nearest 10) to 90km/hr
      To the client we were localizing for, speed is recognized in km/hr. The speed of 55km/hr is within the local normal driving speeds.
    • Changed the football pitch to a standard FIFA soccer pitch.
      Soccer is a local pastime and the conversion put the soccer pitch length at the same length as an American football pitch.
  • The Response
    • 76% of respondents indicated they were shocked by the localized scenario, as opposed to 70% of respondents being shocked by the original scenario.
    • When the respondents were verbally asked what their thoughts were on the subject, the two most noticeable responses were:
      • In the first scenario, the number 55 made some respondents assume that the vehicle was travelling at a relatively slow speed, and they could still brake in case of an emergency.
      • When converted to km/hr, everyone was agreeable that the 90km/hr speed was in fact high!
      • A standard FIFA soccer pitch was also an apt description that jogged most of the local population's perceptions of the distance travelled.

Tricky, right!

2. Second Scenario: "Blood Alcohol level (BAL) And Its Effects."

  • Original
    "With a BAL of 0.02, the effects were…"
  • Localized
    "With a BAL of 0.02, which is achieved by taking one standard beer/glass of wine (researched), the effects were…"

In this scenario, the average person could not identify with the BAL number. When we added a new metric (a standard beer) and the amount (one) their grasp of content was improved.

These are simple, tangible examples that in localizing, we were able to create significantly higher content engagement. Other than content, it is important to consider visuals/images/videos as much as possible. In Africa, for example, many countries practice the Muslim faith. Culturally, you would need to consider the impact of head coverings or hijabs when using images. As millennials take up office positions, they may come across as preferring a flatter power distance index and have a different perception of success. The "shirt" is slowly being replaced by the "T-shirt". Images showing a relaxed office setting as opposed to a more formal one may be more desirable to millennials and Gen Z.


This also has some significant impact on how we curate content linking to the balance of collectivism and individualism. To maintain a truly global brand it is important to create various options of visuals and video content that teams can switch to, while maintaining your standards. This includes images on ethnicities, landmarks, and characters. Using closed captions, subtitles, and transcripts for video helps those who find it difficult to follow accents and other distortions.

Despite the process of localization, sometimes the difference in itself adds value. Some societies identify with others and hence some scenarios may go beyond the original setting/intention in serving the purpose they were meant for. Whichever way you look at it, it is only proper to reiterate that as a global content developer, establishing a trusted pair of eyes who can ensure the quality and accuracy of what you produce for your international market is a prerequisite for your global brand.