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Digital media facilitate localization as well as globalization

by Nigel Hollis | July 25, 2011

In my book, The Global Brand, I highlighted contrasting trends towards globalization and localization and last year, I reported on one localization trend that is still going strong: the rise in the number of farmer’s markets.

At the time I could not substantiate the other localization trends, but news that teenagers are reviving local languages via social media suggests that this trend is also alive and well.

While some people are deliberately trying to use crowd sourcing to revive dying languages, others are using these languages to be cool. Bizarre though it might sound, teens in southern Chile are producing hip-hop videos and posting them on YouTube using Huilliche, a language on the brink of extinction.

This came to my attention via Mobiledia, which also reported that Samuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City, discovered teens in the Philippines and Mexico who think it's cool to send text messages in regional endangered languages like Kapampangan and Huave.

The post posits that the attraction of these languages is that they offer exclusivity now that texting abbreviations have become commonplace. While this sounds a perfectly reasonable explanation, I believe that the use of languages like these is simply part of a larger need to affirm local cultural identity in the face of increased globalization.

Another data set that points to the same conclusion is one far more relevant to marketers: local pages for global brands in social media. Millward Brown's Dave Barrowcliff sent me this link to that demonstrates that country specific fan pages tend to be more engaging than their global equivalent.

Indeed I reported in The Global Brand that YouTube found dwell time was far higher on its country specific sites than on the global one. The reason is simple. On a country specific site, people tend to share the same cultural frame of reference, sense of humor and language. It is easier and more enjoyable to express your ideas and share them with other people when they are quick to “get it.”

Findings like these should give pause to the people who assume that because the Internet is global, they must present a unified global face to their brand online. Some consistency may be required but how it is expressed may well need to differ locally.

Does anyone have any other examples of increasing localization to share? Do you think these trends are likely to last?


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  1. Kathryn Kure, August 05, 2011
    Sure - the blog is to be found at:

    My husband says the problem with my blog is that it can be all things to all people: covers organic vegetable gardening as well as baking, international as well as local, and I do sometimes wonder on the more than odd occasion what I am doing extolling the virtues of both sugar and organic. But I guess I can be Blakeian and figure: "Without contraries is no progression".

    Anyhow, what my latest stats also indicate is that a second "tribe" is forming around high-end decorating - modelling fondant drapes and the like, and they too are spending time on the blog, since I took time to associate content - so give you how to use fondant to model drapes together with the firm cake you need to bake (not so popular among the US of A with its cake mix heritage) and the buttercream frosting you have to use to get the fondant to stick on the cake, and they are interlinked, so it's a one-stop shop - plus with loads of photos - and that set of posts are quickly racing up in terms of pageviews and popularity - and in terms of Google rankings it quickly went to page one of many searches, and success is breeding further success, those pages are going up the rankings quickly but steadily. 

    After the first month, I decided deliberately not to use any other social media on the blog, simply search, mostly because I am an experimentalist, so wanted to see what happens if you don't do anything you "should" do, just see what search alone does. But since Google's Panda algorithm is based on high-quality, original content, and I spend a lot of time editing and writing, the blog is doing just great in search, though I do note a definite drop in traffic when I stop posting for any length of time - so figure they must factor that in too. Also, as my site grows, so my visitors are hanging around longer and reading more, and I am also enhancing what I put up by means of a lot more photos and explanations, since a good third of my traffic is driven by image searches.  

    So it's been an interesting experience, and a good, growing and learning one. 

    One line take-out: High-quality, original content catering to your audience's needs counts. 

    I hope you enjoy the Foodies Channel!
    Happy eating,
  2. Nigel, July 31, 2011
    Hi Kathryn, fascinating stuff. A couple of things occur to me:
    First, please can we have a link to your blog? I know I would like to browse the recipes.
    Second, one of the search terms that brings people to this blog is the "yurt." I happened to use the word in a post referencing a trip to Mongolia. Unique content matters.
    Last, I guess this just proves that internet stats raise as many questions as they answer. Maybe you need a quick survey to ask people what they found useful?
  3. Kathryn Kure, July 28, 2011

    Just looked up the latest stats by top 10: yup, it's looking pretty local to me, followed by British colonial tradition. (Saudi you can take out of the equation, we lived there for a decade and there I know most of my foodies followers are fellow South Africans) & as for Germany - loads of 2010 World Cup followers in South Africa = big downloads of the morogo and chakalaka recipes, so again, we are looking local/South African flavours.

    South Africa 948 

    United States 841 
    United Kingdom 369 
    Saudi Arabia 149 
    Australia 147 
    Canada 77 
    Germany 53 
    Mozambique 47 
    Malaysia 40 
    New Zealand 37

  4. Kathryn Kure, July 28, 2011
    I recently began a food blog for a entire slew of reasons, but some of which have to do with learning more about social media analytics through doing. The blog documents recipes I have learnt from expatriate people from all over the world: Ghana, Nigeria, Lebanon, Italy, America, France, Jordan ... as well as baking from my South African antecedents, in themselves multicultural (Norwegian, Scottish, Irish, British). I even try to cater to the great market that is the USA by giving all recipes in cups as well as grams, in Faranheit as well as Celcius and even Gas Mark numbers, since as someone who has lived around the world I know how frustrating it can be to have to translate every little ingredient. 

    Anyhow, given how the internet is currently configured I kindof expected about half my traffic to be American, and it is. However, what was absolutely fascinating for me to realise is that the great divide between those who bounce (not entirely unexpected given a variety of recipes - chances are if you are looking for khiar mahshi (stuffed cooked cucumbers in a tamarind sauce from Nablus - and I am proud to relate mine was the first post on the internet in English documenting this unique dish and I had a huge spike in traffic from Palestinians from all over the world downloading it), you are not going to hang around and be necessarily interested in imfino izintanga (cooked pumpkin leaves, the Zulu way) or chakalaka (Soweto's culinary delight). So I anticipated bounce rates, which have proved to be not as high as I thought. 

    But anyhow, those from the US of A bounce - and do that quickly - whether it's a scan/print or scan/bounce off approach, I am not sure. What I do know is that those from other countries don't bounce as much. But - and here is the kicker: - if your language on your keyboard is British English - you spend more time on my blog (by a factor of about five) than if you use US English, and tend to look at about 2-3 pages as opposed to looking at the recipe you want and then bouncing off.

    With most of my other traffic coming in from former British colonies: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa too, of course - not to mention the UK itself - the question then arises: is this a result of the fact that so much of the old Women's Institute baking tradition was common to all these areas, or evidence of South Africans who have emigrated coming in to the page via other searches and then hanging around? (almost 100% of my traffic is from search alone). 

    And yes, maybe culinary traditions are almost guaranteed to be local, but since my blog is actually a lot about documenting international foods from all over, I do find it absolutely fascinating that the great divide is in whether you think in American or British English. I was not expecting that, at all! 

    Oh, and most of the traffic comes in for the baking recipes - over 10% for one recipe alone, which I pretty much adapted wholesale from an ordinary ganache a BarOne frosting or ganache - and since Bar Ones (think Mars Bar equivalent) are so very British, I guess, yes, despite its international recipes, it's behaving very much like a local blog and the attraction seems to be the old-fashioned grandma's rock cakes and crunchies and jam crumble finger recipes straight from the old WI recipe books of the 1920s and 1940s. Interesting. 

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