ULG's Language Services Blog

Localizing Images for Marketing


In the world of global marketing, localization is king. Through a well-planned and researched localization process, brands can travel all around the world.

While many think of localization as a large-scale strategy, the details matter as well. To be effective internationally, your localization strategies need to account for every aspect of your brand.

One important yet underutilized aspect of localized marketing comes from a company’s choice of images and graphics. Due to massive differences in culture, a visual that is regarded as engaging and informative in your own country might offend or confuse in other countries.

Importance of Visuals

People are naturally drawn to visuals, and our digital culture is almost completely centered around images. Of course, what might seem like an instinctive visual strategy to you will be dependent on your own experiences and culture, and that same intuitiveness can fail in other countries.

Images and graphics make up a huge part of your branding. While mission statements and core values are important, customers and clients will always notice the images you choose to represent your company. If the product sports high-quality translation, but has imagery that they can’t identify with, your product or service could be harder to sell in international markets.

Research Methods for Localizing Images

Successful image localization depends on a thorough knowledge of the culture you are localizing for. When choosing the right images for marketing a product, frameworks such as the Iceberg Model can focus your cultural research and help you choose better images. Identifying the characteristics that a culture holds as significant will help narrow down the type of imagery to use or avoid.

Another effective method for choosing imagery is considering a country’s six cultural dimensions. These dimensions can be useful in estimating how effective your image will be based on a culture’s unique views.

For example, collectivist cultures will respond positively to images that include people bonding together. On the flipside, an individualistic culture will gravitate towards to photos that feature a single person, as that highlights independence. These cultural preferences will affect photo choice based on how the culture perceives itself.

Pick Universal Concepts

After research, the next step in localizing images is to create basic rules for your images and graphics. You should generate a list of prerequisites for your products and imagery that can be used as a set of guidelines for future campaigns.

Of course, since localization is the end-goal, the images you create should be designed to be efficiently localized. This streamlines the entire localization process by creating a framework from which you can operate.

One important rule is to use common imagery that will be recognized in almost any culture. Common images are typically global in nature, including mathematical symbols, international sports, holidays, and transportation such as boats, trains, etc. This rule is an effective starting point of common ground between cultures before you begin localizing your images.

Localize the Imagery

Depending on your product, using imagery of landscapes, cities, holidays, and activities from the target culture can be an effective strategy.

Since marketing requires a connection between consumer and brand, people are often used in visuals. Another rule in visual selection is to choose images of people with a similar age, social class, or gender, as your target audience can help consumers identify with the product. Similarly, concepts of beauty, body language, and fashion change across cultures, meaning your images of people need to reflect popular perceptions.

During your localization stage, be sure to get local, experienced feedback. Getting knowledgeable feedback from the start can help your brand avoid potential marketing catastrophes in the future.

Localization can be a long, complicated process, where attention to details like imagery can have massive benefits to a company’s global success. By choosing the right images and graphics for a target culture, your localization efforts will be well worth the time spent getting it right.