Be Born Global: Discussing Localization

Posted by Sophia Barnhart

During my time studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, I had the pleasure of taking a marketing course taught by Victor Magariño. Little did I know beforehand, the course would teach me all of the fundamental tools I now use in my marketing roles today, as well as provide an invaluable connection with Professor Magariño. With powerhouse names such asGoogle and Universal Pictures under his belt, this multinational senior executive is well-versed in leading multicultural teams on the path to global expansion. Seeing as collaborating with multinational companies is Victor’s specialty, I jumped at the opportunity to speak with him and ask his take on the importance of localization.

Sophia Barnhart: What is your current position/role?

Victor Magariño: “I currently am at Comunycarse Network Consultants, a company specialized in service technologies and client support services with a focus on video analytics. As Sales and Marketing Director for Comunycarse, I manage the marketing and sales teams.”

SB: What past marketing experience do you have?

VM: “Before Comunycarse, I was leading and integrating a large, high performing, multicultural team across South Europe and Africa as the Head of Iberia & Israel Clusters in Large Customer Sales at Google. I also worked for nearly five years as Sales Director for Universal Pictures Iberia. At Cadbury Schweppes Plc, I served for three years as Export Area Manager before working another three years there as National Account Manager.”

SB: What trends do you see in global marketing?

VM: “I have found that more and more frequently, global marketing companies are rationalizing their brands—companies abandon lesser brands and consolidate in order to own fewer brands overall, instead focusing their efforts on a handful of “power” or global brands. For instance, Unilever has begun using the Magnum label across nearly all of their products, as does Nestle with the KitKat name.

Another trend I’ve seen in global marketing is the capitalization of international events: the Olympics, World Cups, and global expos of the world. At these events, companies can gain worldwide recognition for their products and services by offering sponsorships. In addition, we can see that while there are universal marketing strategies during these events, oftentimes certain efforts are localized to viewing locales.”

SB: What is the difference between globalization and localization?

VM: “Globalization means that a certain product, service, or company is born global, or it is created to appeal to “everyone”—though when I say “everyone”, I don’t mean the entire world as a single unit; an offering is applied to specific segments across the world depending on cultures, demographics, etc.

Localization, on the other hand, is a tool to maximize the success of your globalization strategy. By localizing, you can customize every detail of your current offering geographically, whether that includes ingredients, labels, pricing, or others. Going global can seem a grand and promising venture, but unless your company localizes, those efforts can largely go to waste.”

SB: What experience do you have with localizing marketing campaigns?

VM: “What’s interesting is that this is my first position at a domestic company—we at Comunycarse conduct almost no business outside Spain—although one of our ultimate goals is to go global. We are primarily a distributor, so in Spain we sell solutions from other sources. Over time, we’ve developed our integrations, which could be subject to distribution outside of Spain in the future. Our e-commerce and software service department, though small, conducts business online and therefore could pursue a global audience.

In the past, however, I have plenty of experience with implementing global expansion processes for multinationals—one key step of those processes is localizing. Google was created as an international corporation so it is absolutely critical that they localize, especially with language; Google offers their primary services in other languages—search engine, maps, e-mail, etc.—but also hosts a translation tool. While at Universal Pictures, I discovered the importance of localization in the movie industry. Not only is it critical to properly subtitle and dub movies, but resources video releases need to be properly localized; for example, we often localized posters and DVD graphics specifically to Spanish and Portuguese locales. At Cadbury, I found myself at a multidomestic company that had not yet begun its transition to the multinational business it is today—meaning that during my time there, the focus was on local products with some exporting, but no other attempts to go global. Since then, the company was purchased by several larger firms, including Kraft, and has started to appeal to more global markets. I find it interesting to look back and see how the localization needs vary so greatly from one company to another, depending on the company’s goals, industry, and size.”

SB: Why is it important to localize campaigns?

VM: “Throughout the world, marketing has become more and more standardized—people like the same brands, the same food, the same services—and this is an important trend to keep in mind. That being said, there is always a necessity to localize within different countries. After all, customs and habits differ from place to place. For example, as cows are considered sacred in India, restaurants shouldn’t prioritize marketing their beef products.”

SB: What should companies consider before localizing?

VM: “One of the primary factors to evaluate before beginning a localization strategy is obvious the cost. Is your company financially ready to spend the extra funds to customize your offering? This is a huge factor to consider and can prove disastrous if not calculated effectively.

As I mentioned earlier, another factor that plays a significant role is the timing of your efforts, especially the stage of growth at which your company currently resides. While Comunycarse has very distant plans to expand globally, it just isn’t the right time to make it a top priority. I generally recommend changing your product only when it is truly worth changing, therefore I would advise to only localize and segment once your company can yield better risks and costs (usually when your company has already begun its international expansion).

Knowing where to localize can be a difficult question to address. With any sort of expansion, I usually suggest starting with what I call “low-hanging fruit”, or the options that are easiest to secure. For example, a company in Europe may capitalize on a personal connection in the U.S. In Spain’s case, most expansion moves into the European Union for legal reasons (companies can automatically sell within any EU country—there are no borders or taxes), so a Spanish company would generally start with neighboring countries France and Italy.

By utilizing the right marketing mix elements (price, product, promotion, and place), a company can effectively globalize and localize the way it and its offering are marketed. For example, your company may have a product to be sold to the U.S. and Mexico. By maintaining the same style, logo, and advertising, you can standardize several of the elements. However, to appeal to the greatly different purchasing power between the two countries, your company might find it best to sell in different shipping formats and weights—thus localizing a different marketing mix element.

Overall, it is important to localize with this in mind: don’t think that consumers will think of the country they live in as a whole; differing cultural tastes and needs within one country require teaming with a local partner to ensure all populations are accounted for.”

SB: What are main problems you face when localizing, specifically with translation?

VM: “Remember that in marketing, your key message to the audience is your brand. Don’t make mistakes translating your slogan, or even your TV or brochure components. In fact, even before creating your slogan in the first place, I would recommend putting together a multinational team to make the slogan from scratch. With this team, you can ensure that your key communication points are culturally agnostic when localizing your universal slogan.
Even though I worked for Google, I would advise not to rely too much on its translating service for all of your translating needs. I would always double check with a local translator, especially with documents including more technical information such as company Q&A or spreadsheets.”

SB: What do you recommend companies who haven’t yet begun localizing, or even marketing globally?

VM: When first looking beyond your national borders, I offer one main piece of advice: “be born global”. This mantra, used throughout business teachings, means that before companies are even launched, they should be structured with the objective to appeal to global segments (based on demographics, industries, size of corporation, etc.) in mind. This will make any further decisions (including how to localize) much easier. As I said earlier, globalizing is not nearly as fruitful without localizing, so don’t skip out!

To read how Victor built a social selling culture by adopting LinkedIn Sales Navigator, click here. For more information on how Lionbridge onDemand can help you meet your translation needs with speed and efficiency, click here.