The language of success: how localisation helped these 3 businesses dominate overseas markets

Steven Mike Voser
Looking to bring your business onto a global stage? Learn more about localisation and how it helped 3 businesses dominate the global market.

Looking to expand your business overseas? Localisation is a key concept for any company looking to stand up successfully on the global stage. Read on to find out more about localisation, how it works and how it helped 3 companies find success in completely new markets.


What is localisation?
Localisation is a process that involves a wide variety of strategies designed to help a business flourish in a new market. These strategies can include everything from basic translation to new marketing or branding techniques.
An online business, for example, may localise by simply translating its content, redesigning its website and maybe tweaking some of its marketing campaigns. A large multinational, on the other hand, may need to come up with completely new advertising material and possibly even physically change its products to meet the demands of the new market it’s targeting.
There is no real one-size-fits-all approach to localisation. Instead, it involves managing these various aspects in a way that gives a company a local feel and appeal, in turn maximizing its success in a new, foreign market.
Localisation is closely related to translation in that the latter is a key part of the former. However, while translation is mainly concerned with making your business accessible to foreign-language speakers, localisation is concerned with making it appealing to consumers in these markets.


Localisation success stories
To highlight the power of localisation, here are 3 examples of companies that have used this process to dominate in overseas markets:


McDonald’s is undoubtedly one of the most successful fast-food chains in the world. It has managed to uphold a similar standard across the entire globe while simultaneously catering to the individual needs of customers in unique markets.
Remember that classic scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent asks Jules whether he knows what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France? This points directly to one of the many ways McDonald’s has managed to adapt in order to break into foreign markets.
And there are many more:

  • In Malaysia, for example, all McDonald’s products are certified halal to meet the dietary requirements of the large Muslim population.
  • In Singapore and other Asian countries, McDonald’s also sells prosperity burgers during Chinese New Year to uphold local traditions and customs.
  • In India, the chain also opened its first vegetarian-only restaurant.

Another great example of how McDonald’s localises its business and products is the company’s “world menu.” This menu consists of countless different meal options available at different McDonald’s restaurants around the world.
Some notable items include:

  • The Spicy Paneer Wrap (India): Paneer cheese slabs coated in a crispy batter in a wrap with salad and a creamy dressing.
  • The Aussie Brekkie Roll (Australia): Two sausage patties, bacon, cheese, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce in a sesame bun.
  • Bubur Ayam (Malaysia): Malaysian style porridge with chicken strips, ginger, spring onions, fried shallots, and chillies.
  • EBI Filet-O (Japan): A deep-fried crispy prawn patty topped with mustard, Thousand Island dressing and lettuce in a sesame bun.

These examples (and countless more) are at the heart of McDonald’s localisation strategy.
By expanding its menu items beyond the standard Big Mac that earned the chain its fame in the US, the company has been able to grow even further. Hence, it’s no wonder that McDonald’s now has over 18,000 restaurants across the world and dominates the global fast-food market.


Another company that has mastered localisation is Nestlé. The Swiss company, like McDonald’s, has created a wide variety of products unique to certain markets.
Here are just a few:

  • Bertie Beetle (Australia)
  • Butterfinger (US and Canada)
  • Nestlé Yes (Germany)
  • Negrita (Chile)

However, one of the noteworthy ways Nestlé expanded overseas is the launch of the KitKat, one of its most iconic chocolate bars, in Japan. In fact, the launch of the KitKat in Japan has been so successful that tourists flock to KitKat stores around the country for souvenirs.
To understand Nestlé’s success in Japan, it’s important to have a background on a distinct aspect of Japanese culture. In Japan, gift-giving is a big deal. In fact, it is very common for people to give small gifts like chocolate bars to tertiary education students before an exam as a token of good luck. Nestlé was quick to pick up on this trend and use it to their advantage.
Upon introducing Japan to its iconic KitKat, Nestle teamed up with the local postal service to launch an ingenious new marketing campaign: KitKat Mail. The campaign featured a unique postcard-like product sold only at the post office that could be mailed to students as an edible good-luck charm. This simple idea helped place KitKat firmly among the already booming, yet very unique confectionery market in Japan.
But Nestlé didn’t stop there.
To meet the specific demands of its new Japanese clientele, the brand quickly launched a whole new line of KitKat flavours only available in Japan. These include edamame soybean, passion fruit, matcha green tea, wasabi, blueberry cheesecake, choco banana, sweet potato and many more. While these flavours might seem weird to Westerners, they were an immediate hit in Japan.
Soon after, Nestlé launched unique KitKat concept stores where visitors can order KitKat bars in certain shapes like croissants, sandwiches, or train tickets.
Nestlé also launched an online e-commerce store in Japan, where customers could create customized KitKats complete with photographs, messages and more.
Once again, while this all might sound over-the-top to consumers in other parts of the world, these tactics were perfectly aligned with the demands of Nestlé’s customers in this new foreign market. This example highlights how localisation requires companies to think outside the box when it comes to their brand and products.
While a KitKat might be a regular candy bar in the US or UK, Nestlé positioned it as a top-shelf confectionery product worthy of customizing and gifting to someone else.


Last on our list of localisation success stories is an example from global soft-drink giant Coca-Cola.
Remember the iconic “Share A Coke” campaign? The campaign launched in Australia in 2011 and involved printing 150 popular names on Coca-Cola product labels and other promotional material in order to encourage the idea of sharing the drink with someone. The campaign was a huge success, seeing that the idea of “mateship” is very central to Australian society.
But how would Coca-Cola be able to make this campaign work in a different culture where first names might be used much more sparingly? In China, for example, first names are of great significance and wouldn’t be used so liberally as to be printed on the front of a Coke bottle.
Here’s how Coca-Cola adapted its new campaign in China:

  • It launched the same campaign, but replaced first names with titles like “classmate” or “close friend.” This helped the brand conserve its friendly spirit while carefully considering cultural nomenclature.
  • The brand was also sure to update its names-list based on the trends of a specific country. After all, while Michael and Steve may be common names in Australia, you can be sure they aren’t in places like Egypt or Turkey.

This example of localisation might be very simple compared to some of the others. However, it highlights how even small considerations can make a huge difference in how a brand is received in a foreign market.


Why you should bother with localisation
The above examples have one thing in common: they show just how important effective localisation is.
Just imagine; how could McDonald’s expect to be successful in Malaysia without offering halal and pork-free menu items? Or how could Nestle hope to break into the flooded Japanese confectionery market without making some drastic changes to the branding of its iconic KitKat bar? Finally, how could Coca Cola hope to successfully launch the “Share A Coke” campaign across the world without considering the naming trends of different cultures?

Yuqo quotesLocalisation goes much further than translating all your content and making some basic layout changes to your website.

Localisation involves deep, critical analyses of the market you hope to break into and a dedicated willingness to make some drastic changes to your company, brand or products to meet the demands of your new potential customers.
Just because Americans might scoff at a chicken rice porridge on the McDonald’s menu or the British laugh at the idea of a KitKat being a worthy gift, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world will react the same.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Localisation is the key to success in overseas markets.
To learn more about the power of localisation and how you can begin localising your business today, contact us. For more articles like this, remember to regularly follow our blog.