Localization for the Holidays

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The holidays are here! In the U.S. we will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy good food. The day after is the unofficial shopping holiday of the year, Black Friday, where U.S. residents pack the stores in search of deals. A few days after, on Cyber Monday, Americans hit the internet for online sales.

However, the U.S. is not unique in having a shopping holiday or even Thanksgiving. In this blog, we’ll explore how different countries celebrate Thanksgiving and country specific holidays (shopping and otherwise) that businesses should pay attention to.

[Average read time: 3 minutes]

person slicing pie beside bread

Thanksgiving Around the World

Thanksgiving is mainly known as an American holiday, however, it’s also celebrated in other parts of the world, including Canada, Germany and Liberia (West Africa).

Canada‘s Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October to commemorate Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew’s safe arrival to Canada from England in 1578. Like their American counterparts, Canadians also enjoy a turkey Thanksgiving meal, however, it is also commonly substituted with baked ham or roasted chicken.

Germany‘s version of Thanksgiving is known as Erntedankfest and is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of October with a feast of chicken and geese. During German Thanksgiving, one may see an Erntekrone, a harvest crown made of grains and flowers, worn by the harvest queen at a Erntedankfest procession.

In Liberia, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the first Thursday of November and is the only other country in the world to celebrate an American Thanksgiving. The country was founded in 1847 as a home for former American slaves and thus imported American traditions such as Thanksgiving. On the holiday, gift baskets of papayas and mangoes are exchanged and families gather for meals of roasted chicken and green bean casserole.


KFC Japan Christmas

photo from KFC Japan

Japan: Have a Kentucky Christmas

If you’re looking to localize your content for a specific region, it’s important to know the customs and traditions of that area. If there’s no established tradition for a holiday, there may be a big opportunity for your business.

One case study is Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Japan. Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, but has been celebrated as a secular, shopping event since post-WWII. But after 1974, Japanese families have been getting together on Christmas Day to celebrate with a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner: a bucket of KFC. This tradition was started by Takeshi Okawara, the first KFC manager in Japan. In 1970, despite being a popular American brand, Okawara’s KFC store struggled to make sales in the local Japanese market.

However, a nun who taught at a nearby kindergarten, asked if Okawara could provide food for their school’s Christmas party. Okawara obliged and even dressed up as Santa Claus, carrying a bucket of fried chicken, to entertain the children. The party was a huge success and attracted other schools. Okawara saw that there was no set Christmas tradition in Japan, and thus created one: “You should get KFC on Christmas.” KFC’s “Kentucky Christmas” marketing campaign went national in 1974, with Colonel Sanders statues dressed as Santa Claus and special holidays meals, and became a huge success. Customers now line up for hours on Christmas outside KFC stores to buy KFC’s Christmas Party Barrel: a holiday decorated bucket of fried chicken with various sides for the family.


people in street during nighttime

China: Happy Singles Day!

Another holiday phenomenon happened even more recently. In China there is Singles Day which occurs on November 11th. It began as an “anti-Valentine’s” day in China in the 1990s for single people to celebrate their singledom and has since grown into the largest shopping day in the world. This is thanks to Chinese conglomerate Alibaba. In 2009, Alibaba ran a marketing campaign promoting Singles Day (also known as Double 11) as a day that any individual, regardless of their single status, can buy themselves gifts. This past Singles Day, Alibaba reported a whopping $38.4 billion dollars worth of sales in 24 hours, far surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in the U.S. last year, and establishing it as the biggest shopping event in the world.  

It was not just Chinese companies that pulled in sales, many U.S. and international brands such as Apple, Gap, North Face, L’Oreal, MUJI, Uniqlo, and more made over $143 million each. These companies understood the importance of localizing their marketing strategy with Chinese language ads and websites to reach the Chinese market.


green and brown christmas wreath

‘Tis the Season to Localize

As you can see from the above examples, the holiday season is a great time to localize and help promote your business in different countries. Maybe there’s a holiday tradition your business can establish in another country like KFC did in Japan or maybe your business can get in on the major Singles Day sales in China. 

Regardless, all the successful businesses mentioned above knew that they had to reach their local market by translating and localizing their marketing content for their target audience and capitalizing on the time of year. It truly is the season to localize.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from us here at JBI Studios. Hope you all have a wonderful time tomorrow.

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