Global brands are taking ‘localization’ seriously
For a time, global brands thought that whatever marketing strategy that worked in the US would surely work in other countries. However, these brands had been too complacent that they never realized that the local market they were trying to enter had a mind of its own.
The best example is what happened in China in the early 2000s: US-centric strategies stopped working as Chinese Internet firms gradually learned to understand their own market, an unprecedented discovery that led to a plethora of online startups and innovators. Thus the “end of copycat China” began.
It shook the global brands. Suddenly, standardization becomes a passé and localization has to be treated with utmost importance. The Chinese market has already transformed into a “new melting pot of robust competitors” from just being a mere “expansion target.”
Several giant online brands had to restructure their marketing strategies in China to survive—and eventually win—the intensifying competition. Evernote, for example, had to conduct a China-centric marketing study before introducing its brand in the country.
“Evernote’s China General Manager Amy Gu outlined the strategy that’s working: adapt services and prices for the market, hire locally, figure out a Wechat marketing strategy, add payments on mobile phones, and empower employees to feel part of the company,” wrote Rebecca Fannin on Forbes.
Localization also helped LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Flipboard to convince the Chinese audience that they, too, can compete on a market dominated with local brands. Flipboard, after being blocked in the country several times, had to restructure by partnering with various Chinese firms and giving them full autonomy over its engineering department.
“We actually did a pretty good job early on launching the China app…but what happened in 2012 and 2013 is we just stopped investing in it…it was not through any purposeful decision, [Flipboard] was a small company, with limited resources focused elsewhere,” Chief Technology Officer Eric Fen told the The Wall Street Journal.
The success of Flipboard in China came after it partnered with various local social media sites such as Weibo and Sina, but Fen admitted that having local employees on board made their local arm more attentive to the needs of their audience.
However, even smaller brands with a global aim understand the importance of localization.
Born2Invest, a mobile app that focuses on curating business and finance news from authoritative and reputable news brands like CNN, BBC, and Forbes, has entered the global market with localized marketing in mind. The app, according to creator Dom Einhorn, “will be available in more than 150 markets all over the world by simply reaching out to them through their local language.”
It sounds ambitious, but Einhorn has walked the talk. He is now working with different people across the globe to which made Born2Invest the first “truly globalized” news curator on the market. The company’s curators, translators, web engineers, and designers are from the Philippines, the United States, the United Kingdom, and various countries in Europe. Currently, the company is busy with scouting for more talents, particularly in Asia, as the app aims to have a strong presence in the region.
For some brands, however, localization has become a saving grace, especially for those who want to get away from the overcrowding in the US market. Rdio, after admitting to itself that the US is already a Spotify-Apple Music country, has decided to focus on expanding in India, where music streaming is promising and remains relatively untapped.
India is like the new China in Asia where startup online brands are just starting to emerge. For Rdio, India, with its continuously growing smartphone population, still-improving Internet technology, and unsolved problems on music piracy, is a good place to start anew. The company has already altered its business model—from rates to usability—to make it more attractive to Indian music lovers.
If this is the new trend no one can really say. However, “localizing” a brand to make it attractive to a specific market has been around for decades now—from food to clothing, down to entertainment. Maybe it’s a new thing for online tech brands, and it’s actually a good reminder, for some brands at least, that the world is not just North America.