Localizing - Cultural Differences Matter

Most of the work I do starts out in English. In Montreal and even throughout Canada the majority of corporate clients will need content and the right strategy that will work in both - each language and cultural market. The thing is there really are differences - some subtle and some are glaring.

The differences in imagery are subtle but they are there. Anyone making their first visit to Montreal is inevitably struck by the sense of style of the locals. It's a French thing and it is real, though oftentimes difficult to put your finger on the exact difference. It's certainly more than urban versus rural that can be applied to just about any culture. Granted, this difference dwindles away just a little as every day we come closer to a global community. Still, when choosing imagery for a website this difference must be taken into account.


Not every culture buys what the US market is selling or the manner in which they are selling it. I know it's difficult to believe but it's true. Stumbleupon, Digg, del.icio.us, and the like of social bookmarking sites just don't have any penetration in the French market. Whereas in the English Canadian market they are a factor, yet still not as strong as in the US.

Facebook, well that's an undeniable hit in English Canada and is high on my recommended social networking marketing touch points. In certain French Canadian demographic markets it works well. However, the phenomenon of inter-generational communities has not translated so well. It's easy enough to understand why. The photos work across cultural boundaries but that the system doesn't have a French version will continue to limit its penetration and thus the utility of it as a marketing strategy.

Some platforms, such as forums, strangely don't translate effectively to cultural norms of communication either. That one I don't really get. It just is.

You know those MasterCard ads that are used all over the world...? Some of them work better than others simply because the adaptation is better done. While some are "sort of" replications of the particular "priceless" idea, most are something completely different. A great deal of work has gone into selecting the right story for each marketplace.

Writing and concepts

Writing styles also have to be taken into consideration. You cannot just translate something and slap it on a web page expecting it to work; text, yes the message, needs to be adapted - not translated.

Just a few thoughts to take into consideration the next time you're looking at a different marketplace.

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