#9 Localize with linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness

#9 Localize with linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness

#9 Localize with linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness

Bruno Herrmann

Bruno Herrmann

As a digital leader Bruno Herrmann has more than 20 years of experience in global product, content and customer experience leadership. Most recently he was the Digital Globalization Leader at Nielsen, focusing on global content creation, localization, testing, certification and delivery as well as on product management and international customer experiences. Before joining Nielsen he managed online globalization programs at HP and content management in addition to Web localization at Compaq. Prior to joining Compaq, he worked in the marketing communications and localization industries, taking part in major international projects for high-profile technology clients.

Bruno Herrmann has been a practitioner, change agent, thought leader and strategist in international information and product management areas, both in the offline and online world. He is a regular speaker, panelist, moderator and workshop leader during events and meetings around the world.

Globalization and internationalization are two distinct different practices, both of which pose challenges to everyone from large corporations to the small business looking to expand its markets. Bruno Herrmann explains the difference, and how to get your strategy right.

Episode number:
Date Published:
March 19, 2020

KRISTINA PODNAR, HOST: Hello everyone, today's guest is Bruno Herrmann, a digital leader with more than 20 years of experience in global product, content, and customer experience leadership. Most recently, he was the Digital Globalization Leader at Nielsen, focusing on global content creation, localization, testing, certification, and delivery as well as on product management and international customer experiences. Before joining Nielsen, he managed online globalization programs at HP and content management in addition to Web localization at Compaq. Bruno Herrmann has been a practitioner, change agent, thought leader, and strategist in international information and product management areas, both in the offline and online world. He is a regular speaker, panelist, moderator, and workshop leader during events and meetings around the world.  

Bruno, thanks for being with us today. Tell us a little bit about how an organization prepares itself and staff to enter new markets with products and services.  

BRUNO HERRMANN, GUEST: Sure, first of all, it's my pleasure to talk to you today. I'm glad that we can exchange some thoughts about globalization and localization. So, to answer your question, I believe in my experience that an organization should get ready for global expansion by investing in local customers' understanding, that should be the priority because it's essential to understand what the expected experiences will be and to build products and services accordingly. So, the customer experience should be the starting point of any product and service development. The next step, an organization willing to expand globally, should pay much attention to how products and services will be localized for new markets. It sounds rather simple and straightforward when you think about it. Yes. I need to take a product and service to another country. So let's try to adapt it more or less so that it can really fit in the local framework. But as a matter of fact, localization is more tricky, which is more complex than many people think, and localization will be crucial to consider linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness so that local customers have a seamless and intuitive experience. I insist on linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness. Because that's really the core of localization, but I'm sure we can come back to that later.  

KRISTINA: Well, actually, let me just ask you what do you mean by those three think components? Can you explain a little bit more about them?  

BRUNO: Sure, when I say linguistic if effectiveness, I mean that the actual linguistic accuracy so choosing the right words, the right terms, of course the right syntax in every language. You don't want to actually build a product or deliver a service that is full of mistakes and glitches. So that's pretty well-known. But there are two other sides to the effectiveness of people should consider. The first one is of cultural effectiveness. This is very much tied to cultural standards that people have locally, for instance, you have to use some colors in some countries to delight customers and to avoid offending them, or in some countries, you can use some types of images and some other countries you can't use those images because people will find them inappropriate or even defending again. So cultural effectiveness is definitely not a not only another facet of localization, but it's a deeper layer in localization, and that's why sometimes people overlook this type of dependency because they believe that they can use the same type of image the same type of color or the same type of symbol, symbols, good examples of that, they can use those items all around the world without any big difference and that's a mistake obviously and last but not least functional effectiveness has become hugely important in the digital age because today you can have the best product on this planet with, the best linguistic and cultural effectiveness. If you don't make it functionally relevant, if you don't make it functionally intuitive people will be lost, local customers will not kind will not buy him. I can give an example just a few weeks ago. I received an invitation to download a new app on my smartphone and which I did and, it was a great app, very simple to use; it was linguistically, correct? Because I use it in French. It was culturally relevant because I didn't see any glitch in terms of cultural standards or cultural acceptance. However, I saw that there were a few features that were not working properly in the French version versus the English version, the US English version. So making content making, localization focus on function log function effectiveness is really important today more than ever because today much content is going to be digital much content is going to go through digital channels and if you don't make it work in those channels, then, of course, people will not use it or will they will not remember it. So I think linguistic cultural and functional effectiveness are all very important.  

KRISTINA: This is interesting because those three things sound very simple. But as you mentioned, do you know, it's not as straightforward as when wet might think and so for organizations looking to kind of take their products or their services internationally, there might be a desire to engage vendors, right? They don't have the knowledge in the house do all of the languages, to do all of the cultural nuances that are required actually to translate products and services internationally. So if they're wondering and thinking about bringing in vendors, how do they really make that happen? Where is the best place to employ vendors in your experience?  

BRUNO: That's a great question. And to be honest, in my own experience, that has been a real challenge. I think, you know companies willing to work with vendors around the world, international marketing should really select companies or partners rather than just suppliers or vendors. And for me there is a big difference between working with a business partner and working with a supplier or vendor. I think a business partner really understands your business and is really to go the extra mile and I think a partner also should not only understand the business framework that you are in and your business objectives, but also, the partner should really understand what customers and in this case local customers really want and that's why a business partner typically has an in-depth experience an in-depth knowledge of local markets. I think this is really crucial for, globalizing organizations to be able to make the right choice in a mountain of dozens or hundreds of potential agencies or players to really choose the best one and the best one in my mind is definitely the one that is going to be on your side because there are so many agencies still today. So many vendors that are just sort of making transactions with you. They just take the project they do it and they deliver it back to you. So, okay, that's fine that me it may be fine for a number of organizations. But when it comes to International marketing, there are so many sensitive things to take into account that a real business partner is really crucial to move forward and I think that the involvement of business partners. It's also very important because their expertise will determine the scope of the impact that you will have in your International marketing efforts.  

KRISTINA: And so, is it more important to find a partner who is going to be able to address multiple markets or all markets, or is it more important to find an individual partner for each? What has been your experience?

BRUNO: My experience has been mixed. To be honest with you, in some cases. I was able to find and work with a business partner that would be covering several countries that is specifically in Europe. There are several partners that could, for instance, cover French-speaking countries. So France, Switzerland and Belgium some other partners who cover german-speaking countries, like of course Switzerland again, but Germany and Austria at the same time, but for some big markets, some large markets like China, like Russia, like Brazil, it makes sense to choose one business partner for these markets because those markets are not only so important for your business but also so complex and so evolving quickly that you need a very strong business partner to be on your side to keep up with the evolution in the market but also to keep up with your competition. So I think it really depends I would say it has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but when it makes sense and when it is safe to do so, it's definitely possible to work with a business partner that can cover multiple countries. He's in one region or sometimes multiple countries in different regions. But to be honest, it becomes quite complex to work with such multitasking, business partners just because local markets are evolving so quickly today that to be honest, I think I would go for a business partner for each market even though of course, it would require a bit more management on my side.


KRISTINA: And I think that's a challenge for most organizations are a reason why people shy away from having multiple partners, but as you said, it can be helpful because, you have to invest more time upfront possibly, but then the sort of the benefits are on the back end, and the specificity that's required for each market is honored, and so I'm wondering, you know from your perspective when we talk about sort of partners obviously need to find the right one, what are some of the other biggest challenges in the mistakes that you see businesses making when trying to go global, do they not choose the right partners, but what else what are the things that they tend to overlook?  

BRUNO: Well, actually I can see three major mistakes that globalizing organizations are making more often than not, the first mistake is to assume that the rest of the world is like their domestic market, you know II used to say that the rest of the world is most of the world. You never have to underestimate the challenge, the complexity of international markets, and unfortunately, that still today what number of companies are doing because they believe that, as I said before, localizing a product or service doesn't require that much effort in terms of linguistic cultural and functional effectiveness. So that that sort of assumption is wrong, and it, when it is made, is very risky because most likely it's not going to happen so easily or at least as easily as people might think, so definitely, always consider the international market, as major challenges. The second type of mistake I've seen for many years, all these companies were assuming that digital channels are going to be global by default. I can remember the number of companies I've heard or worked with and said to me: "You know what Bruno we just have a brand-new website; we are global now." Okay. Yes, of course. Your website can be seen anywhere in the world. But is your website truly effective in every market because it's all in English. And of course, you cannot assume that everyone is going to be to be fluent in English? Is it adapted according to local regulations, local norms, local standards, etc.? So, it's not because a company has a global website and a global presence that it's going to be globally effective. And that's a mistake again, or is an assumption, that is still to be found today. And, I think we you can summarize that by saying that with a global website or global platform. You can reach out to local customers, but you're not going to make an impact or an imprint. So, when you localize your products and services, you must make sure that after reaching out to look to your local customers. You really make an impact you, make a difference versus the competition but also that you make an imprint in the mind of people in the long run. So that's why you keep your business sustainable internationally and the third type of mistake that I've seen many, many times is to consider localization as an afterthought or as one such as a one-shot process. As I said before localization is sometimes seen as something not to complicate it or even simple and so as a result of that people or some people believe that, they can do that at a later stage, that it's not going to take too much time and it's not going to be too expensive, actually the longer you wait to localize, the worst your situation is going to be at the very end. So, localization must be considered upfront to be time and cost-effective. That's a must-do, and you know when some people say yes, you know localization is some sort of one-shot process. I say no. No, because localization is a continuous business process. Of course, you can localize your products and services for a number of weeks. But of course, your products are going to be updated. So, you have to reflect those updates in the localized versions as well. So actually in a way localization is a never-ending process because you have to of course, you have to offer the same type of quality and performance to your International markets than to your domestic market, so that mistake which is tied to planning, budgeting and execution has to be avoided as much as possible. Certainly, when it comes to meeting global business objectives.

KRISTINA: Welcome back to our listeners. Our guest today is Bruno Herrmann, and we are talking about globalization and localization. Bruno, I am always amazed that some of the largest global organizations can't get the details right. If that's the case, how can any small or medium business expect to get it right when it comes to globalization and localization.

BRUNO: Well again, that's a great question. It's highly necessary to really consider local standards and local dependencies up front, and it's about engaging with an expert whether it's an individual or an agency to really spend the time that is needed on these, I would say marketing research efforts, and obviously, I've seen the number of startups in the EU now eager to take that step very seriously. Of course, you might say, yes, they don't have the same type of budget. They don't have the same type of I would say involvement as large organizations, but they do see the importance of getting it right as soon as possible and not making mistakes because each mistake can really break the local customer experience, even a detail like a wrong image or a word that is inappropriate can really cost a lot. Of course, there are plenty of examples of that in international markets, specifically China and Germany and you can see that each mistake each little mistake as it's called is really expensive and it's unfortunately it's damaging the image and the reputation of the company in the long run because everybody's going to talk about this mistake in the local market and going to be some sort of running gag or running joke in the market. So, I would say even for medium-size or small size companies try to find and try to focus on what's crucial for your products and services. You don't have to spend weeks on these efforts, but I would definitely base on the specifications of your product and of course based on the target audience you want to reach out to and to we want to engage with be sensible and just focus on what is going to make a difference for these customers. And what's going to make you stand out from the crowd and sometimes it doesn't you don't need a huge budget to do that. I've seen a couple of startups doing it very targeted way and in a very product-oriented way and it worked well just because they knew that they wanted, for instance, to engage with local teenagers in France or in China and they knew that they had to focus on that audience and specifically what could really make a difference what could be seen as convincing by this audience and not by any other group in those markets, so I don't see any reason why a small or medium-sized company should or could avoid that. I think the impact would be even worse on their business than on large organizations.  

KRISTINA: That's great. So, it sounds like there are people who are doing this, right? I'm wondering if you could actually point out a few examples if you feel comfortable with it of who's doing this really well, like who should we look to as examples or setting the bar for us in terms of globalization and localization?

BRUNO: Well in terms of it's very interesting you mentioned globalization and localization because some people are mixing those terms and if I can just make a quick difference between both, localization, as we discussed before, is really to adapt a product or a service for a local market linguistically, culturally and functionally, so that's kind of obvious, but In the long run or even in the short run for some businesses. It's really important to look at the big picture, and the big picture is what do you do as a business to make your product or service ready to be localized as effectively as possible. So, in other words the big picture means looking or implies looking at what's going to happen. What's going to be done before localization starts? And this is what some people call. And I call it myself the same way, product readiness. So global readiness for products and services. And of course, sometimes it has quite a significant impact on localization cost and time just because if you don't prepare products and services to be localized you have sometimes you have to go back to the design and the development stages to change some contents. To make it or to remove some content or to add some content just because localization cannot be done properly despite all the experts that have that who can work on that. So, localization is important, globalization is going to be more and more important in the future because globalization people look at what's going to happen before localization. And also what's going to happen after products localized products are delivered to local market to actually capture and measure the local customer experience because it's easy to deliver a localized products who are local market, but you have to check and you have to capture measure how people are actually perceiving and receiving that product in the local market. You can establish some KPIs which are based on financial operational metrics but I've seen more and more companies investing in developing KP is based on experience metrics and that's very interesting because in my own experience, I remember when I was testing localized products in markets like Spain and Germany, for instance, you might say well it's all in Europe. Yes, for sure. But the way people were perceiving those though the localized product in those two markets was quite different. I remember German users, German customers were really happy about the way it was built, the way it was easy to understand and to use and the experience was quite different and to be honest was worse in Spain just because they were not seeing and perceiving the same thing. So actually, looking at this type of experiential metrics and using them to improve subsequently everything that has to do with localization is the quite important ,now in terms of examples. Well, there are quite a number of good examples because of course people tend to refer to what they you know, what they saw on some news website about mistakes that were made on the Chinese market or in Europe in general. Its these are the two targeted markets by those articles, but I would say if you look at truly global companies, I would consider companies like Airbnb, Xperia, I would well, that these are two of course two companies in the travel industry in the fast-moving good industry. You can look at Unilever. They do a great job in terms of localization, globalization, in the in the tech world. You can consider Dell. You can consider IBM as well. So, all these big names but even you can find some great startups, there is a very interesting one in the in the financial industry, which I looked recently at which is called Minis, in the fintech based in the UK and the way they expand to other markets in Europe and beyond is very interesting. It's not the type of global or entry. It's not the type of local organization willing to expand. They really consider global expansion from the start, and as a result of that, still being a startup or scale-up if you will do that very seriously. So, it's not a matter of size. It's just a matter of consideration, and I would say well common sense combined with business sense. So, these are the examples that come to my mind today but differently. There are some very good ones and not only the bad ones that you can read in articles.  

KRISTINA: That's right. Well, we have to balance out those headlines with some good news too. So, there are folks out there that are doing it right, and that's good to hear.  

One last question for you, Bruno: You mentioned that we see these everyday headlines big mistakes being made on the global stage people trying to recover from them when they do make a mistake and I'm wondering when you work with organizations, how do you ensure they get It right once they actually create their strategy once they start to execute it. How did they continue to adopt that going forward so that they continue to get it right online and don't make those mistakes? What are some of the tools and the tips that you would share with us?  

BRUNO: Well, actually so after completing a very detailed local market assessment so which I call marketing research the best way to keep it sustainable is, of course, well if you have a local office is to work with that local office and make sure that this local office keeps you posted on everything that is hot or not in the local market. But of course, every company doesn't have a local office. So, in that case, I would resort, or I would certainly use some great market research information that can be found, for instance, in companies like Common Sense Advisory or CSA Research, Nimdzi Insights. These are two big names in the localization area. It can provide you with a lot of data with a lot of insights. So, keep those two names in your mind if you want to expand globally in terms of tools. Well if you are in a digital organization, so if you are transforming it or if you are in a digital native company, you should definitely make sure that you have the platform to manage a global or international content end, to end and I don't mean you know that you should really buy what some people call a translation management system which is, of course, a very useful tool but you should really make sure that your CMS is able is ready to use and to accommodate International content. It means content in multiple languages, but also content in multiple workflows because you have to when you have to deliver, let's say content for products and services to 50 different markets, you know across the Americas Europe and Asia, of course, it require a number of workflows that you will have to manage to make sure that those markets received your products and services as time effectively as possible. So, having the right CMS and having CMS ready to be handling International content is key, and it can be combined indeed with you know, some other tools which are quite hyped today. And I said the hype in the good sense. I mentioned CMS but also machine translation. If you have a lot of content to localize a machine translation and specifically newer machine translation can help you with that type of challenge and again, it's not going to be the one tool that you will have to use, but you can use machine translation to combine with human linguists or human localizers as I call them. So you can have, a pretty good set of tools that you can find on the market place, but I would start with a CMS and, first of all, I would start with having the right people in your organization whether you have a local office or not, but definitely that you have in your International marketing team people who are globally-minded. And again, this is something that sounds simple and obvious, but a global mindset is not something that you can have by default. You have to acquire it. You have to maintain it. So definitely make sure that you work with such people. People who can not only you know address most of the world and not the rest of the world but also who can really help you with your own understanding and your own business objectives because sometimes localization and globalization require, opportunities to say no and not always to say yes, and that's, but such probably another discussion but localization might be so complex that you have to balance. What's going to be right, what's going to be sensible and sometimes you have to say well no, there are things that I cannot do just because I don't have the time or the budget and but you also have to get the buy-in from your stakeholders about it. So, this is the human side of globalization management to deal with people not having the same views and not speaking the same language and not having the same culture as you have. And of course, this is a very a human type of challenge, technology will not solve that you have to solve that as a human being.

KRISTINA: Bruno, what are the things that never ceases to amaze me is what a wealth of information and experience you've had over the years and so you're a Fountain of Knowledge, and I'm so grateful that you've taken the time today to share all of that with us, and I'm sure there's just so much more. We've only kind of touched the tip of the iceberg for those who are listening who want to learn more or who want to kind of take the opportunity to explore more your experience and insights. What is the best place for them to go to get more information?  

BRUNO: Well, there are a number of places to go actually so I would say first of all go to conferences that are dealing with localization and globalization matters. There is a very good one coming up in Washington DC in April, where I will be presenting, but the other people presenting to so it's not only about me, which is the Gilbane Digital Experience conference. There are other conferences or very much focused on localization and international marketing. There is the Localization World. There are three conferences like this all over the place. There is the Brand Global conference, which is about International branding and marketing. There are Gala conferences. So just Google globalization localization conference. So three words and you will find a bunch of interesting places to go to and of course, you can not only listen to presentations, but you can talk to people, and I'm always happy to talk to people when they come to me after my presentation to my workshops in such events. So, if you are attending the upcoming one in Washington DC, don't hesitate to come and attend and talk to me. I will be there. There are other resources, other places to go like websites dedicated to International marketing. You have some good articles on the Wired website on the website. Sorry, you have some articles as well on Harvard Business Journal. So, you have the Journal of branding strategy. So quite a number of online and offline resources.

KRISTINA: Wonderful. Thank you. And then if individuals would like to reach out to you directly, what is the best way to get in touch with you?  

BRUNO: Well, for me, the best place is to check my LinkedIn profile first, in addition to LinkedIn am also to tweeting quite a lot. So, people can find me on Twitter.  

They can contact me by email as well because my email address is on my LinkedIn profile so that multiple ways to get in touch with me, but social media is probably the place to start.

KRISTINA: I'm going to make sure that we include those links in the show notes. Thanks, Bruno, for being with us today and generously sharing your insights on globalization and localization. And thanks to you, my listener, for taking the time to catch The Power of Digital Policy. Until next time, be well and do great policy work!

Bruno Herrmann Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brunoherrmann/

Bruno Herman Twitter: www.twitter.com/BHerrmann_INTL

Bruno’s email: herrmann_bruno@yahoo.com

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