The widely used mantra in localization and translation is that one should always think every choice from the reader’s point of view.  Thus words like target audience, target market or target language are used very much when discussing about localization. Nevertheless, before one can metaphorically step to someone else’s shoes, he should decide who his target audience is. Unfortunately, there isn’t any universal way to define who the user/reader/buyer is but these three steps may help:

1. Think geographically

Most localization projects start from an idea of entering new markets. Localization is an integral part of global thinking. Global mega brand Coca-Cola’s famous slogan “think global, act local” expresses this connection very well. Let’s take an example. The global strategy may say that the company will start selling its product in Switzerland. This way the localization project gets a geographical target market; which is Switzerland in this case. This is a good start but it is not enough for a successful localization project.

2. Choose demographics

Most countries have quite a heterogeneous population and Switzerland is not an exception. In fact the Swiss are an extremely heterogeneous nation. If the geographical target market is Switzerland, one should then choose which one(s) of the four official languages is most relevant for the business goals. Let’s assume that the company chooses German (or German spoken in Switzerland, to be precise) as the target language.

Then there are several other demographics to consider as well. Age, gender, education etc. have an impact on the language. Depending on the product, these things may have a huge effect on the success of the localization project.  It is reasonable to assume that a youngster with little education prefer different communication style than an older lady with a doctor degree. Together all these characteristics help the company to finalize the process of defining the target audience in details.

3. Build a user persona

Buyer persona is a common term in marketing. It is a fictional person who represents the average or desired buyer. In the field of localization and translation, a user persona describes a person who is assumed to use the product. The target audience consists of several user personas who share similar interests and characteristics. The idea is to be as specific as possible because this way the translator or interpreter is able to produce text that fits well to the situation. In our example case a buyer persona could be a mother of small children, who lives in a city in Switzerland, speaks German, has a master’s degree, has a full-time job as a manager etc.

Although these steps may take some time, it’s worth the effort. The adaptation of a new product or brand is a complicated process, and a good localization can help a lot, while a bad one can sabotage everything. Luckily most of these steps need to be done only once when entering the very first market because the original user persona with certain demographics won’t probably change between different markets. After that the duplication requires only some updating. The most important thing is to introduce the user persona to the project participants when having a new localization project.

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