Media Localization: What Is It? Success Stories and Epic Fails

Media Localization over the world

When considering a translation project, it’s crucial you know what type of translation you need and what the translation category or method will be used to deliver the message and meaning. The main translation categories are: translation, localization, and transcreation.

Below each of these are a host of industries, each with its own set of requirements and rules. One of those industries that’s constantly gaining importance is the media industry and subsequently the media translation industry. Or should I say, the media localization industry.

Localization Industry is growing!

In 2021, the language services and translation market witnessed double-digit growth following a tough 2020.

Research by Slator estimates the addressable global language services and translation market to be worth $26.6 billion in 2021, marketing an 11.75% increase from 2020.

You can expect media localization to contribute greatly to these figures. After all, since 2020, the focus on media has been exceptional.

But what is media localization exactly? And why are we saying ‘localization’ rather than ‘translation?’ And what do you need to know before you search for and work with a media localization service provider?

Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more in this article.

What is media localization?

Before we dive in, let’s first define what media content and media localization are.

Media content refers to any content created, shared, or “disseminated” by someone, a company, or an organization across books, brochures, billboards, websites, social media, mobile apps, TV, or radio.

In other words, media encompasses a host of locations where content is shared.

Meanwhile, media localization is the process of not only translating media content but making it culturally acceptable and fit for the target audience.

You’ll often see this with website and mobile app localization and social media translation as well as with some TV shows, especially dubbed series. Why? Because some materials need to come across as if they were made in the target language for the target audience.

Types of media content that require localization

As you can see media localization entails various types of content.

In a business setting, media localization encompasses a company’s marketing content. This includes content that appears across its website, social media, accounts, press releases, and other types of content including video.

Primarily, when businesses think of media translation, the first thing that comes to mind is newspapers and news stories. And they’d be correct. These do require media translation.

But when expanding to more culturally-related content such as videos, audio (including voice over), and images or graphic design, that’s where localization becomes a more important and targeted choice.

You see, one of the top problems that emerge when people think of translating video content or speech, is that they narrow themselves far too much. And they end up with a translation that sounds off or forced.

On the other hand, should they use localization and transcreation, their content in the target language would appear much smoother for their target audience.

It’s worth remembering that media doesn’t necessarily mean visual content.

While visual content formats like movies and TV shows require media localization, so do audio formats like radio shows, podcasts, and webinars. Similarly, audio-visual content like translating online courses need a combination of localization and transcreation.  

If you watched the recently-popular Netflix show “Squid Game” in English, then you’ve watched the localized version.

Why localization not translation

You’re probably wondering about the differences between translation and localization. And transcreation (let’s not forget that) and how each of these terms plays a role in rendering media content from one language to another.

Here are brief definitions of each translation type:

–          Translation is the process of rendering content from one language into another without taking into considerations cultural aspects or differences.

–          Localization is a sub-product of translation that takes into account the local features of a language. A good example of localization is with websites. You’ll find that many large brands have localized websites. Jumia, H&M, and Netflix are among the popular localized multilingual websites.

When you decide to translate a website into a new language, you have to consider whether you’ll just translate it from English into Arabic or if you’ll take into consideration the various countries that speak Arabic and each country’s local flavour. That local flavour is localization.

–          Transcreation is a much more advanced form of translation. It’s a combination of ‘translation’ and ‘creation’ or ‘content creation.’

Transcreation is mostly used when translating marketing materials, literature, and other creative works.

Translation and transcreation are different but they also complement one another.

Media localization issues and success stories

As a business, you may still be holding back as to why you should invest in localization rather than simple translation. And you’d be right to do so. But first, let’s share some of the problems large – if not multi-billion-dollar – companies have faced because they did not take localization and transcreation into account.

We mention transcreation here because some of the examples require a combination of localization and transcreation due to the nature of the marketing materials involved.

  • Let’s explore a localization success and two localization failures.

Media localization success story: Airbnb

Online lodgings marketplace Airbnb offers a great example of localization done right.

The company’s mission is to make people feel at home anywhere they go to, even while travelling. Accordingly, Airbnb has ‘localized’ its mobile app and website into various languages to help guests, travellers, and hosts communicate and use the app easily.

Airbnb’s content takes into account cultural, local, and legal expectations from both its end users. Airbnb currently supports 62 different languages along with various dialects based on region.

If you log on to their platform, you’ll notice that there are eight region-specific versions of English as well as 19 versions of Spanish.

Media localization fail: Ford and Pepsi

But not all companies are doing a great job like Airbnb. You’d think multi-billion-dollar companies like Ford and Pepsi could have taken care of their messaging when entering new markets. But they didn’t. And the results were …keep reading.

When car maker Ford sought to enter the Brazilian market, it didn’t realize that its ‘Pinto’ cars were not suitably named and accordingly no one would want to buy them.

In Brazilian Portuguese, ‘Pinto’ refers to a man with tiny genitalia. Oops!

Pepsi also had a media localization fail when it translated its slogan upon entering the Chinese market. Instead of using localization and transcreation to render its slogan into Chinese, Pepsi’s ‘Brings you back to life’ slogan came out as ‘Brings your ancestors back from the grave.’

What to expect from a media localization provider

As you can see, badly translated and localized media and marketing content can result in disastrous results for your brand. And entering an international market is no simple task.

It’s why, for situations like these, it’s best not to resort to your junior in-house translator – whom we have the utmost respect for – but recommend you collaborate with a localization service provider, like TranslationPartner.

And to ensure that your experience with any translation and localization service provider is smooth, we recommend you consider the following:

  • Have an understanding of your project requirements.
  • Use a translation brief to help you flesh out what’s needed from the language service provider.
  • Provide the media localization company with all the information they need and the intended target audience for the new materials.
  • Depending on the type of content you want localized, you may need SEO translation services.
  • Decide how you’ll receive the localized content, whether the service provider will upload to your software or something else.

Being aware of what you need to share with your translation and localization service provider early on will save you time and costs.


Media and marketing content overlap greatly. And it’s because of that they both often require a combination of localization and transcreation.

Naturally, your project and the intended target audience will determine what’s needed exactly. Your localization company can also offer tips to help you grow your business from a language perspective. If you’re looking for a localization service provider or need to learn more about what is the best way to get your content across to your target audience, then get in touch with TranslationPartner, and we’d love to help you.