5 Brands That Are Killing It On *International* Social Media
With more brands going global, the time for localization is now! We’ve done a whole post about the importance of this five-syllable friend, but the gist is that content should be tailored to each region the brand is trying to reach. Sounds like a simple idea, but balancing language barriers and cultural differences can be quite complex. To see what this looks like in action, we’ve chosen five international brands that are employing localization practices in their marketing strategy. You’ll notice two common threads right away: 1) each company runs multiple accounts for different countries, sometimes even regions 2) all the companies on this list are large, well-known entities. With their resources and reach, they best represent the full potential of localized social media marketing; however, this should not suggest that smaller brands can’t take advantage of a multinational strategy, especially if they focus their media efforts on a few key regions.
Now let’s get to the brands!
Levi Strauss and Co. — One Hashtag to Rule Them All
Sold in 110 countries
To connect with customers during quarantine, Levi’s has been hosting the 5:01 Live series on Instagram in order to bring live music performances from around the world to listeners at home. The #501Live umbrella, however, does not mean that performances were simply hosted and reposted to the many Levi’s accounts. A selection was instead curated for each, featuring artists from that country.
See the French line-up:
Versus these smaller Italian acts:
Versus these acts from London and Brighton on their UK page:
Rejecting the temptation to recycle content and engaging with artists in each country, particularly smaller acts, helps create local intrigue around the project and real value for listeners. The brand’s slogan—Live in Levi’s—is used for all countries, and it’s savvy to show people of each nationality doing exactly that. Same project, localized execution.
Netflix — Memes for TV Addicts Everywhere
Streamed in 190+ countries
It’s well known that memes are the bread and butter of millennial and Gen Z users everywhere, and no brand dishes out this form of content better than Netflix. Rather than simply announcing shows, they create content that reflects the thoughts and obsessions of those who already love the material, bringing in new viewers along the way. However, if you take a look at several of their international Instagram accounts, you’ll notice that memes and similar content vary dramatically in topic and in volume.
On the UK and Ireland account, memes occupy a dominant position, particularly ones dealing with universally beloved shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl and Sex Education. Many of these arguably do not need any more advertising, but engaging with them is a sure-fire way to involve large swathes of Netflix lovers.
Head over to Netflix France and you’ll find something a bit different. Firstly, the memes are not translated versions of those on other accounts. They are written for the French account and thus flow more naturally.
Secondly, the ratio of memes to other forms of content is far lower than on Netflix UK. It’s easy to imagine why. Although international viewers have been consuming anglophone films and series (a solid chunk of Netflix’s offerings) for decades, the same level of familiarity cannot necessarily be expected. As such, more space in the NetflixFr feed is given to recommendation lists, primarily composed of films or series in English that the streaming giant wants to promote.
Although Netflix could have made assumptions about the popularity of one type of content and applied it across their platforms, their international social media strategy takes into account language and specific audiences in the two countries while maintaining their overall brand as a fun and creative entertainment provider.
IKEA — Got bios?
Stores in 56 countries
Moving beyond Instagram for a moment, IKEA is thriving on Pinterest, as one might expect from a home goods retailer whose wares are suited to the inspiration board format. The first thing you’ll notice (well, perhaps not—realistically, why would you have five IKEA pinterest accounts open in different languages?) is that the bio for each account leans towards transcreation rather than simple translation. Take a look:
The English bios, which could have been replicated for each account, instead convey different moods. IKEA Canada (“the beautiful possibilities”) is more whimsical, whereas IKEA USA (“smart solutions to make life at home easier”) errs on the side of practicality. Even the bios in French and Italian are not word-for-word translations.
These may be small details, but they signal an investment in each account and audience—one which filters down into the content itself.
The IKEA US and UK accounts feature boards entitled “Back to College” or “Off to Uni,” referencing the momentous occasion of packing all your belongings into a small university room as a naive first-year student.
The French and Italian accounts, however, have no such boards, as there is less cultural mythology surrounding dorm life and a greater likelihood that students will live in private housing early on. Obvious as this distinction may be, it would easily be overlooked with a “global” strategy that involves copy-pasting content into different languages.
Fujifilm — Lending a Platform to Artists
Stores in 56 countries
A photography company? That’s a social media dream come true. Fujifilm is sharing photos taken using their cameras across all platforms, from photos of the week on Instagram to wedding Pinterest boards. One trend that exemplifies the benefits of user-generated content for international brands is their featured photographer blog posts, which are linked on Facebook.
Asking these authors to blog about their work and experience using Fujifilm cameras is an ideal way of generating unique, authentic content in the target language. It also helps build up the Fujifilm-X site in multiple languages. Caroline Tran’s article even includes a short video, bolstering Fujifilm’s Youtube content as well.
Lavazza — Three Countries, Three Coffee Talks
Present in 90+ countries
We’ll end on a slightly smaller scale, with a company whose social media is perhaps not as expansive as the others but does the important things right. Leaning into the idea of a chill coffee at home during quarantine, Lavazza’s UK, Italia and US Instagram account each ran a video series.
On the UK side, we short videos dedicated to different home brewing methods, tagged under #LavazzaAtHome—with a British host, of course.
Similarly tagged, but with different hosts and format, the US account opted for more conversational IG Lives.
And, finally, in the Lavazza homeland itself, a return to IG for a breakfast chat with the tag #IoRestoACasa. Both participants are popular Italian Instagrammers, making them good choices for content in this format.
Here we see three versions of a similar idea, rocking the same color scheme, appropriately differentiated for each audience. Brand commitment to coffee and lifestyle remains strong throughout. However, Lavazza-wide campaigns and themes like this exist against the backdrop of unique content per country, such as a London fashion week collaboration or a fun video of coffee cups as stormtroopers, created to promote the release of a dark roast line in the US.
- There’s no need to reinvent the wheel (i.e. stay on brand): in most cases, a good idea is still a good idea. The brands here aren’t running entirely separate campaigns; they’re simply changing the format, participants and posting style to make the idea more relevant to the target audience
- If you want to get locals involved… start by getting some other locals involved! If you think about it, enlisting the help of creators and consumers who live in the area you’re targeting is the easiest way to make sure your content is relevant
- Don’t force translation: a short post that flows in French may balloon into an incomprehensive paragraph in another language. Be intentional in writing content for your target language—it will show. Not to mention, you probably shouldn’t be copying over most content from one country to another anyway.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of brands who are successfully embracing the localization aspect of international marketing. We’ll be running a series of blog posts on this topic, so check those out to learn more. Happy marketing!