Why Localize for Luxury Products

If you are looking for a good reason to localize your luxury marketing, look no further than China: the country’s luxury market is growing by 30% every year, and according to estimations, 2015 will see it become the world’s largest one.

A smart localizer cannot ignore the mature market of the United States, nor the curiosity of wealthy Japanese shoppers for overseas expensive curiosities.

Although it has been estimated that the world market for premium products has been growing more slowly during later years, this does nothing but create a more sustainable growth of the demand.

Still, localizing luxury products is trickier than doing it for other kinds of products.

Sometimes A Little Exotic is Way too Familiar

For once, part of the fascination with luxury products comes from their origins. I’m sure most of us would be less impressed by a “Very Important Champagne” than by a Grand Cru one, even though “grand” means “important” and “cru” is a French word that denotes a specific vineyard or groups of vineyards. For the same reason, people use prosciutto to refer to specific, prized varieties of Italian ham, and no one would ever think to translate foie gras as “fat liver” (even though that’s exactly what it means).

Keeping this in mind, you must also take great care to make sure that a brand’s name or slogan isn’t the homophone or homograph of an offensive or inappropriate word in the target language. That happened a lot in the past; you can imagine the results.

Localization is More than Translation

To simply translate a marketing campaign that’s oriented towards Western markets into, say, Japanese, means to ignore cultural sensitivity and head towards disaster. As with all kinds of localization, your target culture is about as important as what you are selling; and since we are talking about luxury, the loss of potential clients will translate into a huge potential income vanished.

Therefore, extra care should be put into making sure that your message plays on positive images and sensations while avoiding negative ones, keeping in mind that those concepts are much different for foreign cultures. For example, you should never use a picture of two people shaking hands and looking each other in the eyes in a piece of advertisement for the Japanese market: the most polite Japanese equivalent gesture would accompany the shake with the bowing of one’s head, and the gesture itself lacks the image of strength and confidence it usually conveys in Western cultures.

Also, you should consider avoiding the mention of the number four in your product’s name or description: in Japanese, it’s pronounced the same as “death”. Would you buy a luxury car with “death” in its name? We thought so.

Keep Your Lobby Clean

One thing that every producer of luxury products who wants to localize should remember is that they are selling prime products. Showing a lack of care in the localization is like leaving the lobby of your hotel dirty: anyone who steps inside will think that you’re not going to take good care of their needs. And the kind of people who purchase sports cars or luxury watches do not go to hotels with dirty lobbies.

Investing in good localization shows the difference between amateur entrepreneurs, for which all money spent is a cost, and smart business people who know the value of an investment.

A good localization isn’t required only for new market penetration, but also to maintain those markets you already conquered. A gaffe abroad may well bounce back to your home market, where you will be looked at like someone who tried (badly) and failed.

Better to try and succeed, don’t you agree? But in order to do so, you need a good translation system that takes everything into account and can help you not only in gaining recognition for your brand, but also in keeping your image constantly up to date with the new trends and phenomena of the target culture. This goes way beyond translation: it’s localization at its finest. And it’s required from anyone who wants to be a strong player in the world luxury market.

About Ernesto Pavan

I’m a native Italian translator based in Italy. I have a degree in journalism, and my specialty areas are journalism translation, advertising translation, and literary translation.