Why high-end localisation is key for luxury brands

Translating for luxury brands

The luxury goods sector is one industry that experiences solid growth year-on-year and is forecasted to increase 4-6% globally in 2019 (according to Bain & Company and Altagamma). Even though Europe is at the head of the regions with more luxury goods sales, China continues to dominate the luxury market, and Chinese shoppers lead the consumption of these goods. However, there are many factors in the current global scene that might impact the performance and future of the luxury market: restructure within the European Union with Brexit, US protectionist trade policies, and the changes in patterns in the digital scene with the millennial generations, influencer campaigns and boost of social media.

Deloitte states in their Global Powers of Luxury Goods 2019 report that historically, the concept of “luxury goods” has been linked to…

consumerism, extremely high costs, elitism or guilty pleasures.

The tides are now changing with a new consumer profile and so are their expectations, meaning that factors such as ethics and moral values are becoming more important and affect the decision-making process. This highlights the importance of brand image and identity as it becomes increasingly important for them to implement a good communication strategy throughout their expansion, so there is no room for a wrong interpretation.

Brand identity, brand image and brand reputation

When we speak about “brand identity”, we are referring to the sum of brand meanings expressed as a product, organisation, symbol, and person (D. A. Aaker, 1996a) that makes the brand unique and distinct from other brands (Kapferer, 2004). Brand image refers to how the consumer perceives the brand and is directly linked to their reputation. Ideally, the expectations of the brand representatives would be for the brand identity and the brand image to be consistent, which would mean that the consumer is perceiving the brand as it is intended to.

Usually, most of the concepts relating to the identity of a company are included within brand guidelines, but when they decide to approach new markets there are cultural and linguistic challenges that require a clear translation and localisation strategy. From a translation perspective, these guidelines should always be shared with the translation team so the translators understand the brand as much as possible and can use it for reference. Along with these, it is essential to select a professional team of translators, create style guidelines that will define the tone of voice, build a glossary and define a tailored workflow, as we mention in our article The Fundamentals of Translation.

“Haute couture” digital approach

EY Global mentions that today, luxury requires an “haute couture” digital approach and at Ultimate Languages we couldn’t agree more. In terms of localising content for our luxury clients’ target markets, it is essential to understand the essence of their brand identity and the linguistic challenges we may encounter so we don’t damage their brand image and reputation as they enter a new territory. Some of the regular challenges this industry experience are:

  • Adjusting to the newest trends in the sector such as the millennial generation and their new purchasing habits: Like any industry, the luxury goods sector is seeing a change in trends in terms of buying habits, new customers and expectations. These will have an impact on the points of sale, as social media such as Instagram and Facebook are now emerging as a shopping environment and mobile apps are also gaining territory. There will also be changes to the tone and style used to approach the customer, as it will now have different targets/regions and it will have to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Maintaining the outstanding quality expectations: Luxury is linked to good quality and when dealing with luxury brands, regardless of the product, service or experience, certain levels of quality and consistency are expected. This translates to the localisation strategy as well and is crucial that linguistic and cultural excellence is maintained.
  • Being global but the ability to adapt to local markets vs. being local and wanting to go global: When deciding on the next expansion steps for a brand, the localisation strategy needs particular attention as we want the brand to communicate their identity, values and vision successfully to their markets. Here, we would need to look at areas such as market research, consistent message of the brand across markets, adaptability to regional cultures, tastes and demands, etc. It is common to wonder to what extent shall we adapt a brand strategy, so we do not lose the essence of its identity and usually, some companies tend to follow the 70/30 principle. This principle indicates that 70 per cent of a brand should remain constant, and the remaining 30 per cent can be adapted to regional circumstances.
  • Fast, flexible and efficient solutions that match the consumer’s trends: Nowadays, solutions are required to be delivered faster than ever due to the rapid changes in our current global world, especially in terms of technology. Therefore, when speaking about localising websites or processing any other content for translation as fast as possible, at Ultimate Languages we work along with the client to create streamlined translation processes that include the use of the latest CAT tools, translation management systems, widgets, and translation connectors. These solutions, along with a dedicated team of project managers and translators, allow us to work more effectively.

All in all, we know that language and culture are crucial factors for the success of any business that wants to go international, so this should be taken into consideration as part of any brand’s strategy when approaching other regions and markets. A premium and customised localisation strategy that takes all the considerations above into account, along with a deep understanding and experience on the sector, will make the perfect tandem to speak the language of luxury globally, leading the brand down a road to success.

Are you a luxury brand needing support to devise a highly tailored localisation solution that truly reflects your identity and image? Then reach out to a member of the Ultimate team today. We can’t wait to work with you.




Aaker, D. A. (1996a). Cómo construir marcas poderosas [Building Strong Brands]. Madrid, Spain: Ediciones Gestión 2000.

Kapferer, J. N. (2004). The new strategic brand management. London, England: Kogan Page.

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