to-localize-or-not-to-localize International companies know how challenging it is to be both global and local at the same time. On one hand, building a strong global brand isn’t easy but it could bring efficiency and competitive advantage in the brand management. On the other hand, every new market is different and already saturated with brands. A new and unknown foreign brand has to work very hard to earn the attention of the potential customers, and localization is one way to come closer to the people.

The decision whether to localize or not requires some research and analysis. Sometimes the choice is relatively easy. For example if the business strategy relies heavily on local work or production, and if the original brand is based on the usage of foreign names or flag colors, localization is the way to create a local look and feel.

Unfortunately, most often the fine line between brand features and cultural adoptation is far from clear. Companies struggle all the time with questions like:

  • If the brand colors deliver a wrong or unpleasant message in the foreign culture should they be changed?
  • Are the brand icons understanded correctly in the new market?
  • Does the slogan translate to other languages?
  • Is the product or service even relevant to the people living in the other culture?
  • When the low sales is solvable with localization, and when there just isn’t enough demand?

A real life example of balansing between localized and global brand

IKEA, the global furniture brand, has managed to balance between a clear, unified brand image and a localized consumer experience. IKEA products are recognizable: although there are countless amount of items sold in every color and shape, deep down they all hold the spirit of Swedish functionalism and minimalism. The products even carry the Swedish names everywhere.

The IKEA catalogue is still an essential part of the brand. It is said that today they create the rooms in the catalogues mostly with a computer. This way it is possible to manage the multilingual versions quite efficiently. Like the covers below show, the texts, currences, prices and even the direction (the Arabic catalogue is read from right to left) have been localized.


Although the catalogues are quite similar in many ways, the local styles are present. The product selection is not exactly same everywhere. The sizes and meanings of homes are different and thus the consumers prefer different furnitures. For example the beginning of the kitchen section in the catalogue is completely localized.


Some time ago there was a little polemics around IKEA’s localization. They had removed the females from the Saudi Arabia version of the catalogue. The public felt that this was too much and the company ended up apologising the case.

The line between under- and over-localization is extremely fine. There is no point of creating and managing completely localized brands in every location because it takes a lot of resources. The risk of falling into the stereotypics trap is huge, too. However, if there is little or no localization, the brand may stay distant and unaproachable to the local consumers.


software localization tools Create and manage localized versions easily with a localization tool. Using a single tool in every localization project guarantees constant quality and efficient work flow. Try Multilizer Localization Tool for free.