Brand localisation considerations

Posted: 11 Sep 2023

Linguistic Considerations When Localising a Brand or Product Name 


Does your content have the global reach you’re aiming for? Mass appeal is all very well but sometimes you need a localisation strategy to avoid cultural and linguistic blunders when translating brand communications or product names into a different language. We’ve shared a few of these mistakes on our blog in the past, no doubt raising a smile or chuckle.

However, for the companies and brands involved, it’s no laughing matter. Instead, it’s a lesson not to forget or ignore brand localisation when launching in a new global market.

This article will show that a localisation strategy is as focused on cultural impact and brand perception as it is on local language output


What is brand localisation? 


Brand localisation is adapting all aspects of your branding to appeal to specific foreign markets. A successful localisation strategy provides the same recognisable look and feel of your brand across borders but appeals to customers on a local level. 


CSA research found that 76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products after reviewing information in their native language. You shouldn’t assume that just because someone speaks English that they’ll feel comfortable using it to select and make purchases. A further 40% will never buy from websites that use a different primary language. 


Think of all the sales you could be missing out on by not localising content. 

Localising brand names or product names is a big part of brand localisation, but it is far from the whole story. To truly localise a brand, you need to consider everything from brand imagery and tone of voice to cultural preferences and idiosyncrasies. Some colours used in logos or brand imagery may have negative associations in certain markets. For example, in China, white is associated with mourning so brands should avoid it as part of any Chinese localisation strategy. 


Similarly, certain words can cause problems across different markets. Perhaps the message used in a slogan might not work in the target market because its emotive ideas simply don’t translate or the tone may be too casual or strong.


Brand localisation explores all these variables to ensure that when a company launches in a new market the brand is adapted to local sensitivities.


It might even go as far as developing or adapting products specifically for that market. Fast food chain McDonald’s is a good example of this. If you’re in New Zealand, expect to find a Kiwi burger on the menu. In India you could try Chicken Maharaja-Macs and in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries you might notice a McArabia.


These product names also demonstrate how brand names are localised for each market. Keeping the ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’, which is synonymous with McDonalds’ global brand, the product names blend cultural and language considerations with instant brand recognition.


Brand name analysis and localisation


At Comtec we provide brand name analysis services to help our clients understand how their existing or proposed brand names will hold up in each global market.


This is the first step in any brand name localisation strategy. Researching the market gives you a good idea of how much work is needed to localise the brand name for a new market. We use in-market reviewers to carry out the research, but you could ask colleagues or associates in that country or region to do the same. However, it’s important to find impartial native-speaking reviewers. If your colleagues are already exposed to the brand names or product names, they may have assimilated them and find it hard to step back and give a balanced view.


Key points to consider when localising product and brand names:


  • General interpretation – what’s the first thought that comes to mind when your in-market reviewers hear and read the brand name? Does it have a meaning? Does it conjure up any feelings or emotions?
  • Review all possible meanings – can the meaning be interpreted in any other way? Get a clear picture of all the possible meanings associated with your brand name.
  • Negative connotations – it’s crucial to review for negative or controversial associations to avoid any negativity around their brand and product names. 
  • Existing names with a similar meaning – is the name similar to brand names already used in that market? Whether it sounds similar or has a similar meaning it could cause confusion, have a negative association, or there could be trademark concerns.
  • Pronunciation issues – how does the name sound in the local language? Many people in the UK mispronounce global brand names like Ikea and Lidl, what effect does this have? Some names might be too difficult for someone in another market to pronounce, so they might avoid saying them.
  • Phonetic similarities – what other local words sound like it? Your brand name may not have any direct translation, but does it sound like another local word? This might have positive connotations if the local word means something that is related to the brand values. Or it could cause confusion or reflect negatively on the brand.


With this information, you will now be in a much better position to avoid a translation blunder or find a suitable alternative brand or product name for that market.

We’ve created a free-to-download guide to support your next steps in brand localisation. It’s packed with tips and advice!

For further info on how we can help you with your translation queries or requirements, please give our friendly team a call on +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email We’re always happy to talk translation!