How to Create a Marketing Translations Masterpieces


Translators live in a world of gray. Hardly ever a day goes by where their assignments are black-and-white, straight up word-for-word direct translation. And when it comes to marketing translations, there are even more colors involved, more angles to consider. Like a painting which takes many brush strokes before you can discern the entire picture, it takes a keen eye and deep cultural understanding to transform a marketing campaign into the right image that speaks across different cultures. Here are some tips on how to seamlessly blend those colors so that your global marketing campaign efforts become a beautiful masterpiece.

Consider the basics. Before you begin painting your global marketing picture, you need to analyze the original content. What will translate seamlessly between cultures? What changes need to be made to the original to ensure consistency?  Are there phrases, concepts or figurative language that need to be altered slightly to keep the same meaning but still make sense in your target culture?  Can you use the same images or photographs without causing offense? Can you change the images only slightly and keep the same feeling? How can you keep your content globally friendly?

Understand the culture(s) you are trying to woo. Drill down to regions, dialects even. Do you need your material to be in French-Canadian versus the French spoken in France? What about Portuguese spoken in Brazil versus Portugal?  Even though these languages are similar, the cultures vary; and your marketing text needs to reflect the differences in tastes, habits and lifestyles. Be careful, though. If you don’t consider your target region, your marketing runs the risk of being ignored because it is too neutral and doesn’t speak directly to your audience.

Take your time. Because of tricky nuance and figurative language, marketing content takes more time to translate. Focus on catchy headlines and taglines.  Be aware of slang terms and double meanings too. Will they all translate? The desired message may involve multiple revisions, so plan accordingly.

Translate the intended message. No doubt your local marketing took quite some time to become impactful, interesting and persuasive.  This same attention needs to be given to your global marketing efforts to make sure they are just as effective in another language. Good translators always focus on the message to guarantee it resonates with the intended audience.

Stay recognizable. Be sure to keep your brand intact. Your company’s brand has a certain voice. Your company is recognized by its tone. A good translator will not mess with your brand, your style. If your company is young, up-and-coming, vibrant and innovative, the translated marketing text should be too. If your company is more formal, established and authoritative, your translated content should convey that. Be sure your brand stays the same on all platforms too —from your website to your print material. Keep your brand recognizable by staying consistent.

Watch your images. If brand is about your image, then the images you use must match your text. Be sure your foreign audience will understand the images you choose. Watch colors and symbols since they carry different meanings for different cultures. For example, the color red symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture, yet it signifies mourning in South Africa. Remember that those images are initially more impactful that the words that accompany them, so they need to catch your audience’s eye in the right way.

Maybe ax those slogans. Tricky figurative slogans and jargon don’t translate well. Getting them to work across many markets as a global slogan is a rare thing. Whenever possible, don’t use the slogan or come up with one more fitting for your intended audience. You’ll be glad you did.

Watch your space. Many languages take up more space that the average English word.  Consider Siebentausendzweihundertvierundfünfzig, the German word for the number 7,254. That is a lot of letters (38 letters to be exact) for one number. Leave some “elbow room” for such discrepancies in the target language.

Review and gather feedback. Be sure you know that the tone and style are present from the early phases of the project to the end. Being there to review throughout the process will help avoid time-consuming rewrites.  And welcome some feedback. Let people review your marketing translation and give their reactions. This invaluable insight will be let you know if your piece it ready or if you need to tweak things somewhat.

If you gather the right translation team with excellent cultural insight, you will be well ahead of the global marketing game.  They can turn any global marketing dream into a colorful, impactful masterpiece!

By Ilona Knudson

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