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Localization Globalization 101 and GILT Conundrum

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher
Posted in Zoom Sep 7 · 7 Sep, 2022
Localization Globalization 101 and GILT Conundrum

Localization globalization concepts are nothing new. The Italian adventurer, Giacomo Casanova, grasped the idea as early as the 18th-century when the gadabout playboy visited a Parisian opera only to laugh at the backdrop misplacing the Doge’s Palace on the Venetian landscape. He knows his beloved land better than anyone else at the French opera. After all, Casanova is a true-blue Venetian.

You might argue Casanova wrote his memoirs in French, not Italian or Latin. Doesn’t that make his “opera antics” absurd? You’ve got to understand that French is the 18th-century equivalent to 21st-century English as an international language. 

It’s one of the earliest forms of localization globalization. Casanova had to write in a language that most people in the world understood, and that was French (at the time, at least). 

So, Casanova got it right. If an 18th-century playboy has a fair idea of localization globalization, why do some 21st-century companies have problems understanding and appreciating the concept, let alone operationalizing it? 

Let’s find out as we shed light on the Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation (GILT) conundrum besetting many contemporary businesses.

The GILT Formula for Successful Businesses

Expanding to new markets isn’t new. Almost every business wants to have an overseas presence, allowing them to exploit their brand’s popularity and bring in the much-needed revenue or some other goal. 

The 18th-century Parisian opera Casanova visited decided to stage a Venetian play, hoping to appeal to French aristocrats to appreciate and patronize Italian art. Unfortunately, their grasp of localization globalization ideals is mediocre at best. They had the idea of crossing the border but failed to depict an accurate Venetian representation at the French venue.

Thankfully, businesses learn. Today, companies and corporations with an eye on the big prize can execute four crucial steps, making their brands more meaningful to any market worldwide. 

We can look at Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation (GILT) as the four critical steps to ensuring a global brand footprint.

Why would you want that?

Imagine you’re opening a branch in Italy and depicted the Leaning Tower of Pisa a few degrees off. 

How would your Italian customers feel? Say you want to establish an office in the Philippines, and you painted a picture of the flag with nine sun’s rays instead of eight. Tiny details mean a lot to different people. And if you’re on a globalization quest, you’ll want to get your localization strategies straight.

You can look at GILT as a stack of rings forming an inverted cone shape that toddlers and preschoolers love to play with. We’ll call the lowermost and largest ring the globalization disc, providing stability for the three upper discs. Internationalization forms the second, slightly smaller circle atop the globalization disc, followed by localization and translation forming the top.

Companies that want to achieve a global presence must start with a sound globalization philosophy and strategy. It’s the foundation for a successful localization globalization program, allowing the organization to adapt to any local market and realize its worldwide expansion objectives.

The second tier – internationalization – focuses on branding and product or service design that allows for a smoother expansion into cross-border markets. On the other hand, localization empowers companies to adopt and adapt a particular “internationalized” service or product to a specific marketplace. Lastly, translation operationalizes the company’s localization globalization objectives. 

Confused? Let’s dig deeper into each concept to help you get out of the GILT conundrum. 

Localization Globalization


People think of globalization (shorthand “g11n”) as the process of making services and products available worldwide. Although the idea is not perfect, it somehow gives the impression of a borderless world. 

The United Nations defines globalization as the seamless integration of societies and economies with two distinct elements. 

The first attribute is open borders, allowing technologies, goods, and services to flow from one country to another as efficiently and smoothly as never before. 

The second element focuses on international and national policies that promote or facilitate the seamless movement of goods, knowledge, technologies, and services across borders.

Other people define globalization as the process of spreading a company’s influence beyond its national borders and includes seamless interconnectivity between cultures and economies of nations. 

Thanks to the World Wide Web, expanding into other national markets is less complicated and more straightforward.

We can think of globalization as the whole world becoming a small village where everyone can interact. It’s a phenomenon where cultural, commercial, technological, and social influences gradually become similar wherever you go worldwide.

For companies trying to demystify the localization globalization paradigm, globalization entails conceptualizing goods and services for the global marketplace. It allows organizations to sell or offer these products worldwide, requiring only minor modifications to suit each local market.

Globalization doesn’t only reflect a company’s expansion outside its national borders. It also includes the inward migration of talents from different countries worldwide. 

For example, the US grants 85,000 H-1B visas every year, with tech companies forming the bulk of the foreign worker sponsorships. Indian, Japanese, South Korean, and Chinese tech professionals flock to Deloitte, Cognizant Technology, Tata, Google, and Facebook, alongside techies from other nationalities.

Some call this migration a reflection of the tech industry’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. However, the practice is one of the core elements of globalization – opening one’s doors to other cultures and social backgrounds. 

Global brands are everywhere. Amazon is a classic example. People worldwide can shop and purchase different products from virtually anywhere. You can have premium-quality, authentic cashmere from Mongolia or Turkey delivered to American or Canadian fashionistas. Indonesian woodworks and spices can find their way to other markets globally.

How about Netflix? This streaming giant has a robust presence in nearly 200 countries, delivering entertainment no movie theater can provide. Travelers also love Bela – Airbnb’s universal symbol of belongingness – wherever they decide to rest on their adventures. 

Another example of a global brand that understands the essence of localization globalization is McDonald’s. 

With more than 38,000 stores across a hundred countries, McDonald’s epitomizes globalization efforts gone right. Interestingly, 93 out of 100 McDonald’s restaurants have independent local owners. Despite this, the restaurant chain retains its successful image regardless of where you decide to dine.

Of course, franchisees localize their McDonald’s offerings without undermining the organization’s philosophy and brand image. 

For example, you can get a Sausage and Egg Twisty Pasta in Hong Kong, Oreo Affogato in South Korea, Shaka Chiki in Japan, Chicken Maharaja Burger in India, Cadbury Crème Egg McFlurry in the UK, Coconut Sticky Rice Pie in Thailand, McMolletes in Mexico, Cheesy Egg de Sal in the Philippines, and Fruit and Maple Oatmeal in the US. 

These McDonald’s offerings might be specific to their countries, but they never detract from the brand image.

Apple is also a global brand with manufacturing facilities in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 

However, Apple’s globalization strategy is not about making more money by appealing to local markets. Instead, this tech giant prefers making its components in these countries because labor and materials are more affordable than in the US. It remains a hallmark in localization globalization efforts.


Bridging the localization globalization gap is internationalization (shorthand, “i18n”). It’s a vague concept for most people because internationalization looks more like globalization. However, it’s worth pointing out that globalization entails laying the foundation for reaching out to the rest of the world. On the other hand, internationalization requires more concrete strategies to operationalize globalization goals. It’s the crucial step before a company can localize.

Localization Globalization

Let’s try to understand this concept by looking at a few examples. 

Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker established Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market. The global coffee chain started selling freshly roasted coffees and equipment at four different Seattle locations in the 1970s to the early 1980s. 

Howard Schultz bought Starbucks in March 1987 and embarked on a mission of localization globalization. As of 2021, Starbucks has nearly 33,000 stores across 62 countries, with one out of five customers visiting the store at least 16 times monthly.

The best example of Starbucks’ internationalization efforts is its logo. The original Starbucks badge had “coffee,” “tea,” and “spices” forming the core. 

When Schultz took over, he scrapped the “tea” and “spices” from the logo, leaving only “Starbucks” and “coffee.” By 2011, Starbucks decided to strike off the wordings in their emblem, leaving only the iconic mermaid with a broader and more significant face and more flowing locks. 

These logo design improvements allowed Starbucks to reach more places and appeal to more people because the brand is more identifiable and recognizable.

McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken also internationalized their product offerings before embarking on a grand localization globalization scheme. 

KFC redesigned its image and packaging for use in more than 25,000 stores across 145 countries. For its part, McDonald’s doesn’t even need to write “McDonald’s” anymore because its golden arch is emblematic worldwide. 

IKEA is a trailblazer in internationalization. This well-respected home products brand internationalizes its offerings by printing graphics-only user manuals. It doesn’t matter if the company ships the orders to Norway, Russia, Egypt, or Namibia. 

Customers will understand picture-type how-to manuals better than text-based documents. The problem with conventional, written user manuals is the language can be confusing, making assembly a headache. You won’t get that with image-only references.

So, internationalization prepares a company for its globalization efforts. It requires the brand to design and develop its application, game, service, product, website, and other commercial elements to make it more effortless to adapt to targeted local markets. 

Adaptability is the principal focus of internationalization. It empowers brands to tweak their offerings for a specific market without substantial costs.

Internationalization can pose several concerns to different companies. For example, data encoding must be near-universal to accommodate most languages. Non-Latin alphabets, such as Korean, Hindi, Chinese, and Russian, typically require Unicode character encodings that are more expensive than traditional ASCII. User interfaces and hardware must also allow for inclusion if the company wants to meet its globalization and internationalization objectives.


Globalization sets the tone for worldwide expansion. Meanwhile, internationalization prepares a brand for entry into various markets, ensuring global adaptability. 

On the other hand, localization (shorthand, “l10n”) allows businesses to make their goods and services highly relevant to target consumers within a particular geographic location. In other words, it’s time to test how adaptable the internationalization measures are.

McDonald’s is the leading example of a global brand with an excellent understanding of localization principles. It has offerings specific to its local market. 

For example, its Hong Kong restaurants fill up local tummies with Sausage and Egg Twisty Pasta. On the other hand, South Koreans love the Oreo Affogato, while the Japanese can devour Shaka Chiki instantly.

Even McDonald’s McSpaghetti in the Philippines is well-tuned to the palates of Filipinos with its sweet taste. Malaysians love the Bubur Ayam McD, a savory porridge perfect for McDonald’s Malaysia’s predominantly Islamic customers. The Hindi version of the Big Mac – the Maharaja Mac – is a favorite in India, a culture that reveres cows and cattle.

It’s not difficult to appreciate what localization means in a company’s localization globalization efforts. Localization empowers an organization to fine-tweak its international offerings to suit a local market. 

Hence, you won’t see pork offerings in predominantly Muslim countries. Some markets highlight regional specialties, such as the UK’s fish and chips, Argentina’s chimichurri, and South Africa’s biltong and droewors. 

Language and cultural idiosyncrasies play a crucial role in a successful localization strategy. Every brand element must conform to local rules and regulations, customs, traditions, and other peculiar characteristics. 

For example, some cultures require reading texts from right to left, not the traditional left to right. Other countries read documents top to bottom. 

Romance languages feature more words than the average English usage, while Russians have fewer words to use. However, Russian language space requirements are larger than English because of their Cyrillic nature.  

Localization also adopts local rules, including the formatting of numbers, currencies, phone numbers, times, and dates. Local markets also have varying time zones, addresses, calendar elements, and measurement units. 

For example, the US still uses the Imperial system (inches, feet, ounces, miles, and pounds), while almost all other countries observe the Metric System (centimeters, meters, kilometers, grams, and kilograms).

Localization Globalization

These strategies are crucial to communicating effectively with the local marketplace. You don’t want to be the 18th-century Parisian opera owner whom Casanova mocked because you didn’t get the Doge’s Palace’s placement right. 

No business organization wants to confuse its customers or convey that it doesn’t understand the local culture.

Local customers expect global brands to grasp their cultures, social norms, and traditions. Otherwise, they will feel like these companies impose their will on the people. 

Such has no place in this modern world. Hence, businesses must work with local experts to understand and appreciate market expectations. It’s the only way to guarantee a successful localization globalization strategy. 


Localization fine-tunes a company’s internationalization activities to fit a specific market. On the other hand, translation (shorthand, “t9n”) is the actual transformation of the internationalized material into a target language. 

IKEA doesn’t need to do this for its graphics-only user manuals because they don’t have words to translate into other languages. On the other hand, most global companies must translate each brand material or element into a language the local people understand.

For example, McDonald’s business template might be in English, but international markets must translate it into their local language. Hence, McDonald’s in India will have prints in Hindi, while the Chinese market will have the correct Chinese characters.

It would be wise not to disregard this all-important step in the GILT process. After all, you don’t want to experience HSBC’s 2009 translation fiasco when it translated its “Assume Nothing” tagline as “Do Nothing.” It was a simple mistake that people in some countries didn’t take too lightly. In the end, the banking firm spent ten million US dollars to rebrand itself worldwide. 

Although it’s tempting to use Google Translate and rely on its neural machine-powered algorithm for language translation purposes, there are language peculiarities these technologies cannot grasp. It can lead to faulty translation and costly misinterpretations. 

English words can have different meanings and implications among cultures. For example, Americans call a woman’s handbag a purse, while Britons call the wallet a purse. 

The term “geezer” is derogatory in the US but a masculine trait in the UK. Americans think of chips as thinly sliced potato snacks, while Britons call them crisps. The Brits’ idea of chips has a thick cut.

Hence, it would be best to hire a professional translator, preferably someone who specializes in a target language, to manage a company’s translation requirements.

Final Thoughts

The concept of localization globalization isn’t complicated. Companies must understand that everything starts with a sound globalization policy and theoretical framework. 

Only then can businesses piece together their internationalization and localization strategic plans. Global brands must create a comprehensive localization plan to guarantee accurate and high-quality translation. It’s the only way they can appeal to local customers and bring in the much-needed revenue and brand following.

Although it cannot help you with your globalization, internationalization, and localization strategies, a professional translation service provider can guarantee high-quality and accurate language translation. 

Whether professional translators or advanced AI technologies, companies with an eye on the global stage can rely on professional translation companies to deliver meaningful content that captures local market fancy and loyalty.

If your brand wishes to establish a firm foothold on the global market, count on us to help you with your translation requirements.