Brand localization vs. standardization: Which is the best approach for you?
When you enter a new market, should you localize your brand to connect with local preferences, standardize to strengthen global brand recognition, or both?
Some brands are like chameleons — carefully adapting to suit their new surroundings. For example, in European markets they present themselves differently to Asian or American markets, so their messaging and visuals connect with local preferences and culture. But adapting can also lead to a loss of recognition and a dilution of your brand.
Others are like leopards, refusing to change their spots over time or for different markets. This makes them easy to identify, wherever you encounter them. But it can also risk alienating your new audience if it doesn’t speak to their cultural preferences.
There are multiple ways to present your brand to new, global markets. You can adapt your brand, like a chameleon, or stick with your original, familiar brand assets and messaging. Companies need to understand their options to pick the right approach for their brand, budget, and audience.
Brand localization vs. standardization: what’s the difference?
Brand localization and standardization are two different approaches to presenting a brand to new markets and audiences.
Brand localization is where companies adapt their brands for local and regional markets. For example, they could use new brand names, different logos, an adjusted color palette, or change their core messaging.
In contrast, brand standardization is where companies use the same brand elements, assets, messaging, and styles to present their brand across all regions. So wherever someone encounters the brand, it will look and feel the same.
Companies will take different approaches to presenting their brand to new markets for many reasons.
Some companies may not have the budget to invest in customizing and adapting their brand for new markets. Developing a localization strategy involves a lot of market research to understand the cultural differences and preferences in your new target market. Then, it takes significant time and effort by their designers, marketing team, or agency partners to bring the localized brand to life across all marketing materials, products, and communications.
Others may need to adapt their brand if their existing visuals and messaging are firmly rooted in their home culture, as this won’t resonate as well in other markets.
Additionally, in some markets, international brands may be seen as more desirable, while others may clearly prefer local brands. So when you enter a new market, it’s essential to consider how “foreign” or “global” brands are perceived. This will help you decide which approach is best to develop the international marketing strategy for your brand.
Localization is best for bottom-up brand building
Localization involves adapting your brand, messaging, products, and content to local markets. It can help build up your brand’s reputation and market share from the ground up.
Brand localization offers several benefits for your customers. It helps them trust your brand and see it as relevant to them. It also makes it easy for customers to understand your brand, products, and values.
For your internal teams, localization can help to differentiate between your regional offerings — especially if you offer new products or different services in each region. Additionally, it means your regional teams have greater ownership over the brand and more input into its creative direction.
This approach is best for companies that want to establish a distinct local presence in different regions. It can also help companies build their brand through word-of-mouth recommendations, as local audiences discover and connect with your brand.
Localization is a good option for brands with smaller marketing budgets, without the money to spend on large-scale marketing campaigns when entering a new region. However, you should compare the marketing cost savings against the time and expense of localizing your brand in the first place — from redesigning assets to translating content.
Hipcamp localizes its content and visuals for each market
The outdoor accommodation marketplace Hipcamp focuses on its content and core messaging when localizing its brand. Comparing the US and UK versions of its site, it uses different terminology to provide an authentic experience for site users. For example, American users can search for “RV sites,” while in the UK, the term “campervan” is used instead.
Additionally, the locations listed change depending on which site you’re on, as do the images. US users see photos of Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, or Joshua Tree, while in the UK, you can choose from regions like Cornwall, Norfolk, or the Lake District.
Takeaway.com changes its name to connect with international customers
Food delivery platform Takeaway.com has brands active in 11 countries, but most use different brand names to help local customers understand their service.
The primary brand name — Takeaway — is a familiar term in English, but it doesn’t mean anything to audiences that don’t speak English. So to help customers understand its services, it uses different brand names in other regions. For example, in the Netherlands, it uses the brand name Thuisbezorgd, which roughly translates to “home delivery.”
Learn more about how Takeaway.com uses Frontify to support its brand localization efforts and achieve consistency across each brand and region.
Standardization is best for top-down brand building
Standardization is where you keep your brand visuals, assets, and messaging consistent across different markets, which helps to build brand recognition through familiarity.
This approach offers a different way to build trust with your customers. They know they’ll have a similar experience with your brand, no matter where they interact with it. For example, if customers take a vacation, they’ll recognize and trust your brand and products, even in a different country.
A global standardization strategy also offers several benefits for your internal teams. Keeping your visuals, assets, and messaging the same makes achieving and maintaining brand consistency across each region easier, as there’s no risk of employees using the wrong set of assets. Launching into new markets is also quicker, as you don’t need to spend time adapting your brand visuals or messaging.
Standardization is the best approach for companies with a global customer base from day one, rather than ones that start in one region and expand from there. It’s also a great option for companies with the budget and name recognition to launch in new markets with large-scale advertising campaigns to build awareness.
Coca-Cola standardizes to become recognized worldwide
Coca-Cola uses standardization to keep its visual branding and core products relatively unchanged across different markets. It uses the same brand messaging and visual style across each region to build brand recognition globally.
Today, Coca-Cola is one of the top 10 most recognizable and valuable brands in the world. Its products are available in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.
On its corporate website, you can navigate between websites for different countries. Each one follows a similar visual style and uses the same logo and navigation structure to build that familiarity across each region.
You get a similar level of consistency with its products — a can of Coke looks almost identical whether you buy it in the US, Europe, or elsewhere in the world.
Frontify helps everyone align to achieve brand consistency
Here at Frontify, we haven’t been around as long as Coca-Cola so we don’t have their brand recognition or customer numbers. But we do have something else in common — our approach to brand standardization.
We keep our brand consciously standardized to align with our mission of helping everyone become a brand builder. We help our customers empower their teams to engage with their brands to improve recognition through brand consistency.
Our approach to our own brand brings our mission and values to life. For example, we create centralized brand guidelines that anyone on our team can access. This makes it easy to achieve consistency across all our brand materials, and means everyone in our business is part of building our brand and presenting it to the world.
At the same time, our standardized brand helps our customers understand the benefits they’ll see from using our platform because we demonstrate those as we bring our brand to life.
Take a look at our own brand guidelines to see how we achieve brand consistency at Frontify.
Global brands don’t have to localize or standardize — find the middle ground
As we’ve seen, many companies choose to either localize or standardize their brands. But if neither option feels quite right for you, there is a third option that you could think of as the middle ground between the two approaches.
Glocalization (literally, a combination of global + localization) is fast becoming the popular choice for international brands. It means you keep some brand elements consistent, and then make deliberate choices for what you adapt across different regions.
Research shows that global brands grow faster than local ones, so we’ve put together a report on governing global and regional brands to optimize for brand growth. Download your copy below now.