Localisation: What does it mean for your French marketing?

“The Ottomans rounded up youngsters in conquered lands and brought them back as slaves to be trained as ‘language-boys’ in Istanbul. Modern direct methods are gentler but rely on the same understanding of how languages are best learned – through total immersion in a bain linguistique, a kind of baptism of the brain.” (source)

Most of trade is done through written information, printed and digital. All packaging is covered with messages. So far, calls are made between people able to speak the same language (this can change soon).

How do you trade with a foreign audience?

No time and no will to learn a new language? That’s the common case. You know about translation and interpreting and you outsource. But do you know about localisation?

Depending on your industry sector there are different definitions, with always the same purpose: the relevance.

—  In culture and economy, economic localisation is the opposite of economic globalisation
—  In computing it is about adapting software or apps for another audience
—  It is the same for video games and television
—  The word is also used for engineering, radio, mobile phones and acoustics, and in physics, mathematics and biology.

What matters for your French marketing is language localisation

According to Wikipedia (English): “In general language localisation addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to translation the localization process might include adapting graphics; adopting local currencies; using proper forms for dates, addresses, and phone numbers; the choices of colours; and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product.”

In other words: communicating across the boundaries of language and culture in the global marketplace.

When you market your product in another culture (other sensitivities, habits and language) and/or in another country (where regulations and specifications can be different) relevance is the goal because your purpose is to sell.

Some people explain localisation by opposing (for example) the US and China. But even between the UK and France the regulations for some products can be different and you can check this point with your UK Trade & Investment team.

Give your French customer what they need to understand quickly your product

Let’s have a look at packaging: they are a great way to communicate because they relate directly to customers and they can help you to sell.

Each manufacturing industry has their own set of regulations. Depending what you sell (toys, food, electrical products, machinery?) the information required on your packaging for the French market can be simple or more detailed.

Beyond legal requirements, what do you want to say to your French customer?

Here are three British products sold in France: a beauty product, a toy and a food product.

Did these brands made the choice to “just” meet their legal obligations on the packaging or did they decide to go a bit further with their French messages?

Let’s compare the British and the French packs.

A British organic beauty product

It is an organic beauty products and makeup brand suitable for even the most sensitive skins. Made in Britain and certified by the Soil Association (the highest organic standards in Europe). The brand sells online in 6 languages and through independant stores in the UK, France and Germany. They run social media in several languages and they have 15 distributors across Europe.

The product below is packed for both British and French markets.
How to compare the information?

packaging beauty product

The English text gives information that does not appear in the French text:
—  a mention about potential users (gardeners)
—  a detailed list of ingredients (mostly in Latin, which works for the French)
—  some advice for storing the product

The French text focuses on other points:
—  more precision on how to use the balm (lips, elbows and heels)
—  a mention about the organic oils that are “riches en vitamines”
—  the description of the qualities of the product “Cosmétique biologique contrôlé. Ne contient aucun produit chimique, parabène, parfum ou colorant de synthèse.”

At the back of the packaging the qualities of the ingredients — guaranteed by the Soil Association, are in English. This certification is respected in the UK but less known in France: no mention of it in French.

It is a lot of information in two languages on a small box: a mix of legal information and messages for the customers. The texts are different in English and French but they tell the same story: a top-quality brand serious at what they do. In December 2013 they re-launched their skincare (plus new products) as Odylique, a range of eco-luxe products. And they changed the packaging.

A toy designed in the UK

This toy brand «guaranteed favourite with all pre-school children» is designed in the UK and made in China. The toys are bought all over the world. The website is only in English.

On the packaging below the toy is presented in French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Let us have a look at the differences between English and French information.

packaging toy

The text in English is cheerful: “love”, “care”, “passionate”. They talk about quality: “our exacting standards” and they give value to their Chinese manufacturer: “our colleagues in China”. They list all their safety standards and explain some processes: “we drop them from a very high height to make sure…” and “super safe non-toxic paint and no nasty PVC”.

There is a warning about sand and beach and colours that may slightly vary and a nice message to contact the company in many ways. Social media logos are small but at the perfect place.

In comparison the text in French is factual and not appealing. It looks like the company just meets their legal obligations. What is the reason? A hint: another 3 texts in other languages are displayed on the packaging and space is limited. Packaging is a battle with millimetres.

In this example French customers don’t get the same information as the Brits. Does it makes a difference to the sales in France? May be, may be not.
A French website and social media in French will most certainly do so.

English crisps

It is a young English brand that sells all over Europe and in the US through distributors. They have a French, a Deutsch, a German and an American websites and they develop social media in several languages.

Most of the text on the packaging below is in English. It is informative, clever and funny. They sell English food and they are proud of it. They sell Englishness: no need to translate.
Is it a marketing choice? To be frank, the English text would be difficult to translate in French. And not so funny.

The information on the ingredients is printed in 10 languages.

Nutrition labelling is mandatory in Europe and manufacturers must provide information on the energy value and some nutrients, and one of which is salt.

So what do they say about the ingredients?

packaging food

A French text is usually about 25% longer than an English text. Here it is even longer because some information is added for the French market: information about salt, telling us that the crisps are at least 25% less salty than classic crisps.

No mention of it on the French website and I do not know why. What I know is they sell another variety of crisps more salted: a French customer can grab both packs, compare and buy what they prefer.

The French have the reputation to care about food. Bit of a cliché. Some do, some don’t but healthy food is still important for many families. Is it the reason of this extra bit of information about salt, which doesn’t appear in any other language on the packaging?

Replicating your English content in French is not always the best way to be relevant.

Localisation is a subtle task even on a pack of crisps.

Language and identity are linked.

You change pounds for euros, you adopt French punctuation and swap miles for kilometres. That’s the easy bit.
Culture, habits and sensibilities can be more challenging.

Don’t do it all on your own. Ask for help and go quicker.

Enjoy reading this? Share it. Thank you very much 🙂

foryourbrandonly.com has been created by Véronique Mermaz, a brand and marketing specialist. She is originally from France and lives in rural England. You can find Véronique at LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter: @veroniquemermaz