A Guide to Image LocalisationThumbs up shows how image localisation can go wrong

Do you find the above image offensive?  Chances are you don’t.

But use this hand gesture in the Middle East and you might be chased by an angry mob.

That’s because while in the UK a thumbs up signifies approval, in the Middle East it means you’re going to jam your thumb into someone’s…

Assume Nothing

When localising a website it’s really beneficial to run through an in-country review, which will help reduce the chances of offending potential customers.

An in-country review is a bit like a focus group, with native people assessing your brand.  It will flag up any images that could be seen as potentially offensive, and any perception issues.  For example, have you considered how the colours you use in your marketing are perceived in other markets?

According to Color Marketing Group, colour can be up to 85% of the reason people buy.  Think about McDonalds, Coca-Cola or Pepsi and it’s easy to imagine why colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent.

a yellow ferrari which could be offensive without image localisation

Most people can agree that the above car looks pretty sweet in yellow.  This would be especially true in the Middle East, where yellow is linked to prosperity and happiness.

But in Egypt and some Latin American countries, yellow is the colour of mourning.  So while those cultures might still love the car, another colour might resonate better with people in those countries.

Top Tips for Image Localisation

OK, so you’re sold on the idea that you need to look at the images on your site.  You’re ready to assess them to optimise your chances of success. But where would you start?

Here are our four action points for anyone considering image localisation for their international marketing campaign.

  • Choose a language partner who understands image localisation
  • Do an in-country review to identify any potentially offensive images and make sure images support your marketing message
  • Research the connotations of your brand colours in the target market
  • Think about how you can adapt your imagery to fit the new market, but keep brand consistency


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by Wolfestone Admin
  • Arek Estall

    Any comments welcome! Do you agree images are a key part of the buying process?

    • Nigel T Packer

      Images set the scene. They provide a subliminal indication of what the company is about. The biggest danger is the use of clichéd images such as the hand shake, the small oak tree and many hundreds of other images that are so familiar on many websites. This is just laziness from bad designers and can be a problem for international marketing and promotion when we have to deal with cultural and legal issues.
      The user experience is an important aspect of all web design. Making life easy for the customer will always return better results and conversions than bland design and poor navigation.

  • Nigel T Packer

    Excellent article Arek.
    During website User experience evaluations we are always conscious of the activities of the client. Who their customers are in the UK and overseas.
    Recently, a client from the petrochemical industry, was preparing for a big visit to Kazakhstan where they were meeting with a top official in the Kazak ministry. To ensure they were giving the best presentation to their clients they commissioned us to evaluate their website to make sure it performed for the Government minister and his entourage.
    We carried out a range of user experience tests on the site preparing for the feedback session with our client.
    During the feedback session we presented a page with an image of three attractive young people dong an OK sign to camera with the slogan your OK with us in the caption. A perfectly sound message in the west and from a brand perspective a visual way of reinforcing confidence.
    It was pointed out to the client that whilst this is great for western tastes it was not the message that a Kazak would appreciate as it meant something completely different to that nation. A message that would be impolite to state here.
    So be carful of what you select for an image especially if you are dealing in exports and trying to attract customers from different cultures.

  • Gemma Price

    Great post! Very engaging.