Sound Local to Thrive Globally

Oct 08, 2019

In the digital age, visuals are believed to speak louder (and faster) than words. But that doesn’t mean you can neglect the audio components of digital content. Therefore, it is important to treat audio localization as importantly as your globalization strategy in general—and your local marketing and branding efforts in particular. Audio content is especially instrumental in humanizing how you reach out to local customers, make your content resonate, and lead them to react positively to your brand content. Moreover, the growing popularity of voice-first devices suggests that audio content is going to be your primary salesperson in the next decade. Making your voice sound locally relevant and immersive is not optional.

To start, it is paramount to evaluate audio globalization and localization efforts to ensure that your teams and stakeholders understand what they imply. While there’s recently been a focus on voice recognition and interaction, audio content may also include functional sounds, background noise, music, voiceovers, and actor voices. Globally, you must choose the combination of audio elements that reflect and solidify your commercial identity (i.e., your branding message and your value proposition). Locally, you have to tailor these elements and tune your messages according to local customer experiences. They expect to be delighted both collectively and individually in a convenient way, based on their own standards, aspirations, and intentions. Once again, linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness plays out and must drive internationalization and localization processes. Along with visual content, audio content is the main opportunity to amplify and sustain customer engagement.

Internationalizing your audio content means designing and developing it to be ready for local adaptation. You have to anticipate and implement the right level of flexibility so that audio content is removed, added, replaced, or tweaked as necessary to deliver local experiences. The more markets you target, the more flexible it has to be. For example, the sound of music and the type of functional sounds mean different things to different people. Also, voice stylistics vary around the world. Just like you should create libraries of visuals that are locally and globally relevant, you should ensure your creative teams maintain repositories of recorded audio components that accommodate variables and variances.

Localizing your audio content requires adapting or potentially creating local components. Using a regional or local song in some markets triggers more emotions than playing a global hit. In the same vein, inserting a voiceover element in a localized video may increase clarity or accessibility. Essentially, you must localize audio content so that it truly resonates with customers without altering the core messages or values you want to convey. In any case, user groups or consumer panels remain useful to test and certify that all audio components are meaningful, actionable, and memorable—which are major effectiveness indicators.

Localizing voice content is most challenging in terms of workflow and resources. You should start by determining if it has to be dubbed or subtitled. Dubbing is expected in markets where people are used to watching videos without subtitles. Conversely, subtitling is more cost-effective and time-effective for voice content that is frequently updated. So costs have to be balanced with local acceptance and global agility. Once the assessment is done and the decisions are made, you must ensure that the actual content is transcribed, translated, localized, reviewed, recorded (for dubbing), validated, and synchronized properly. More often than not, this basic course of action gets extended for more review and testing.

You need to tap into specialized language and engineering talents for any voice localization task, as well as the best voice talents for dubbing efforts. Local customers must be intuitively convinced that the audio they listen to sounds like how they speak naturally. As a result, you should seriously consider what accents and tones voice talents should have depending on your target audiences. These requirements are best formalized in style guides. Localizing voice content poses linguistic challenges since subtitling or dubbing has to fit smoothly in allocated spaces or time windows. Therefore, text expansion must be contained, while voice content recorded in other languages cannot exceed lengths predefined with timestamps. Such dependencies typically come up in German, Spanish, Italian, and French—requiring expanded text or longer recordings.   

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