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DISPATCH SPECIAL: What is localization and why is it important?

March 2021

There are several ways to get people talking about your brand in Québec. But let’s just say that some methods are better than others. And they’re worth your consideration, since Québec makes up 23% of Canada’s population.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, notifications, text messages and endless feeds of content, simply attracting attention is not enough. When it comes to relevance, your campaign has to hit the bullseye. And as time goes by and localization trends become the norm, the more Quebecers expect to receive personalized messages that speak to them—messages that check all the boxes in terms of language, culture, humour and expressions.

In essence, Quebecers want to feel that a product or service was designed with them in mind from the start: More than 38% of Quebecers automatically feel more engaged with an ad when it accurately reflects life in Québec.

It’s a common misconception that the only way to achieve this is to create an original concept from scratch. In fact, national and international brands are increasingly turning to localization to inject real, local Québec flavour into their global campaigns. And that opens the door to myriad creative solutions that allow you to speak to the people you want to reach.

So what is localization, anyway?

The localization process involves taking the strategic platform, creative idea, and even deliverables, and passing them through filters. Since speaking to Quebecers is what The French Shop does for a living, we created a tool that brings together 7 distinct filters, which we apply to all our mandates.

  • Language, because, of course, we speak French. More than 94% of Quebecers speak French, and for 81% of them, it’s their mother tongue.
  • Culture, because Quebec is home to a melting pot of unique cultures from France, England, and the United States. Culture influences everything we do, everything we think about, what makes us laugh, what we eat, etc.
  • Heritage, because we are proud of where we come from, and our history is important to us. There’s a reason it says "Je me souviens" ("I remember") on our license plates.
  • The star system, because we have a near and dear relationship with our celebrities. We almost have the impression that we know them, as if they are members of our family. We love our artists in Québec.
  • The media landscape, because we consume information differently, whether on television, radio, in print, or online. For example, Twitter is not as popular in Québec as it is in Ontario.
  • The market reality, because we react differently to trends and messages from brands.
  • Advertising regulations, because the rules and laws in Québec are quite different from those in the rest of Canada. For example, advertising directed at children is prohibited in Québec.

These filters are specific to the Québec market and help us optimize our clients’ projects on all fronts. Something seems off? The strategy doesn’t respond to market demand? The insight isn’t relevant? Does the tagline (accidentally) become a sentence in translation? A play on words has totally lost its meaning? The competition has already delivered something similar? The casting doesn’t reflect the nature of the market? In-store activations aren’t possible or need to be adjusted? The media plan hasn’t reached its full potential? The creative idea is prohibited in Quebec? In short, it doesn’t work at all?

These elements have a significant impact on how a message reaches its target audience, and ultimately, how well your advertising campaign will perform in Québec.

3 possible routes to localization: adaptation, transcreation, creation

Once everything has passed through our filters, we can correctly assess the right route to take.

No red flags, and everything seems to work except the language? In that case, we can take the adaptation route and play in the same sandbox.

If there are a few elements that are off that may compromise the success of the campaign, we can maintain the framework and move forward with transcreation. With this route, the goal is to preserve the essence of the message but make it relevant in the eyes of Quebecers.

If it is clear that there is no way to take the first two routes, we move forward with an original concept, completely mapped out for the Québec market. Of course, we make sure that the entire message and the actions work within the overall strategy—we just add a little maple syrup so that it sticks with the people here.

Collaboration, first and foremost

It’s important to note that the art of localization is an art of collaboration. The process should always keep the original campaign in view and respect the budget and realities of the client and agency. Localization experts aren’t here to steal the show—they’re here to help. And to optimize the quality of the work and its results, it’s always better to plan for localization at the start of the process so that the message develops with a strong foundation. By keeping in step with the global campaign, there’s no need to work backwards at the end, which ultimately saves a lot of time (and money!).

In every case, the job of localization is to perfectly combine strategy and creation—a challenge that requires a great deal of expertise. It involves maximizing what already exists and injecting it with a healthy dose of local flavour. How? With a tagline inspired by an expression that’s familiar to the target audience, for example, or by modifying a radio message so it sounds more local. Or by adapting a TV script so that it adheres to advertising regulations, or modifying a website to allow for better integration of language. Sometimes simply featuring a local spokesperson or product placement on a popular show may be the solution. Knowing how to play with local humour and ensuring that casting reflects the population can make all the difference. And of course, changing the rules of a contest or editing a TV spot so that actors aren’t seen mouthing the wrong language on-screen are additional examples from the long list of ways to localize ad campaigns.

When it’s well planned, localization ensures that your advertising campaign will reach and be relevant to your target audience, creating a positive association with your brand. It contributes to building brand presence while easily integrating into the local advertising landscape. In a nutshell, localization is an important tool to add to your arsenal to maximize your investments and achieve your marketing objectives.

In Québec and around the world

Lastly, unless you live under a rock, it’s hard to ignore the fact that localization is a growing phenomenon, in Québec and abroad. Amid current economic challenges, consumers have to find their way around a global market, diversifying media platforms, and head offices that are increasingly consolidating in metropolitan areas.

In Québec, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated, amplified, and solidified the preference for buying local. The pandemic has reshaped our consumption habits, our purchasing decisions, and how we perceive brands. And all of this has an inevitable impact on how the ways brands advertise and share their message.

Because today, close enough is not enough—your message needs to hit the bullseye. Localization has become essential. So, if you need a campaign that speaks to Quebecers, or if you just want to know more, TFS experts will be happy to chat with you!