Don’t let your message get lost in translation by avoiding these international marketing mistakes

By Taylor Setterfield

We all know that translation is necessary for the spread of knowledge, information and ideas; this is why Google Translate is used more than 100 billion times a day. However, it is important to create effective and appropriate communications when translating from one language to another, as you have to consider the cultural differences of each market. Professionally researched marketing translations, when done correctly, can strengthen your brand’s identity on a global scale, whilst maintaining a consistent message globally. 

Moving your business into new markets globally

Effective language communication is crucial for any multinational company hoping to succeed within the global marketplace, however it is also important for many local businesses, especially at this time. COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, and businesses not only have to cope with disappearing revenue, but also the longer-term economic effects, both locally and globally. One good strategy to overcome the challenges is to target new customer bases, so you could take a look at Ansoff’s Matrix and follow a market development approach by moving into new markets.

Many businesses move into international markets as it can be seen as a ‘safe’ option – by focusing only on your home territory, all your eggs are in one basket, whereas by diversifying your assets, the risk is spread across many different countries – it allows you to access different market segments, focus on different niches and present targeted USPs. Making your resources accessible to all countries creates a wider platform from which you can increase awareness, thereby strengthening your brand identity.

How to avoid international marketing mistakes

Go global, think local

Reaching out and presenting your product to a global audience, but with the intention of focussing on localised strategy is very important – there’s even a term for it: Glocalisation. Glocalisation means ‘go global, think local’, therefore it is essential to localise all your marketing communications for each country. This essential side of language adaptation is called Transcreation and without incorporating transcreation into the localisation process, even a product or campaign with a powerful cohesive message will fail to draw in their target audiences.

Why should you rely on the hope that consumers in other countries can speak your language? Although 20% of the world speaks English, large numbers are non-native speakers and it does not necessarily mean your communications will be received as effectively as localised content. If your target audience cannot speak your language fluently, then they should not be expected to navigate your website, your brand guidelines and your resources with ease, which could lead to high bounce rates – this is classed as a Pinch Factor. 

Avoid pinching prospects

Pinch factors are obstacles that stand between you and your consumers. As a UK-based company, not localising your resources means that you’re unable to communicate effectively with at least 80% of the world. To break this down further, only 5.2% of people in Russia speak English fluently; 5% in Brazil; and less than 0.75% in China. An investment in professional language services is exactly that: an investment.

You need to understand how the world thinks

When communicating with a non-English speaking country, it is critical to ensure that your message is communicated correctly. Pepsi’s slogan was once “Come Alive, You’re in the Pepsi Generation”; however, due to misinterpretation at the language adaptation stages, it was translated for the Chinese market as “Pepsi brings dead ancestors back from the grave.”! 

This perfectly highlights the adverse impact of inaccurate language communication and the necessity to understand the target market. However, the base elements of language adaptation are not the only aspects to consider in successful cross-cultural communication: cultural nuances, market-specific resonance, effective humour, adjusted word-play and even customised imagery play a significant role in ensuring that your brand message is relayed in the most effective and coherent manner possible. 

It is key to work with a team that prioritises the cultural nuances in the brief and then engages their global network of linguistic professionals (copywriters, editors, etc.) to develop poignant communications that celebrate your brand as a whole. The deep understanding of the differences in regional cultures, and even such aspects as a knowledge of the country’s political and social history are essential when developing market-specific communications strategy and campaign assets, in order to ensure that your company or brand is presented in the best light possible for each target market.

Communicating with employees

Transcreation doesn’t have to only apply to external marketing; it can be used in a variety of different ways to ensure communication is fluid throughout your business as a whole, including the communication between employers and their employees. 

LEAP worked closely with CGI Netherlands to develop a set of localised brand guidelines for their employer branding and recruitment campaign; while the global guidelines were shared with all local markets, the general consensus was that campaigns could be more poignant and effective if we developed communications for this market specifically. We worked closely with both the Dutch CGI team, our specialist Dutch copywriter and our Dutch editor team, who all have extensive experience in employer branding. We compiled a brand guide, including assets such as; message maps, emails, campaign visuals etc. One of the main considerations was the tone of voice and how to ensure that the audience receives the communications in the intended manner. We ensured this goal was met through productive collaboration between all parties, this resulted in a successful set of localised employer brand guidelines.

How can we help?

Here at LEAP, our central Language and Culture team can offer 22 years of experience in global campaign management. With a network of 4,500 copywriters, translators, strategists and consultants based in over 151 markets, we specialise in multi-market localisation for creative and industry-specific content. We believe that it is important to invest in professional translation and transcreation, especially as one small mistake could damage your entire brand image and, if you’re not as well-established globally as Pepsi, then your loss of profits could be irreparable as a result.

It is essential to use native, experienced linguistic professionals, each of whom specialises in their respective field, to develop content and communications that strengthen your brand identity on a global scale, while maintaining a consistent message for all lead markets – this is what we specialise in at LEAP, and we can implement this service across all markets and all types of assets, including film, TV, digital toolkits and employer branding campaigns.

LEAP created a number of websites for The Binney Group, a construction firm based in Surrey. The Binney Group has three main parts, Freeland Properties, responsible for land acquisition, Stately Estates, responsible for representing clients from across the world acting as a ‘personal agency’ and Stately Homes, responsible for building bespoke tailor made homes to exact client high-end specifications. 

As their client base diversified they enlisted the services of LEAP, not only to design and build high-end quality websites, to represent the nature of their business and clientele, but to also provide translations for Stately Estates and Stately Homes so their diverse range of clients can access the content with ease. Content was translated into Russian, Arabic and Mandarin and the client has the option as soon as they visit the sites to select their preferred language. Stately Estates offer the additional benefit of a client private login area, where confidential property information can be shared, again with the option for the client to select in which language they wish to view the content.

Localised language communications remains an essential marketing strategy. With online shopping increasing every year, reaching consumers from around the world effectively is more important than ever. Successful language adaptation can help you to reach a wider audience, communicate efficiently and create common understanding across all languages, while ensuring quality brand cohesion. 

Unless extensive native insight has been carried out to determine that English is the best language for a specific brand’s communication, (due to their industry, the audiences being addressed or the products being offered), companies that still believe that the rest of the world will adjust to English content should be aware that they are unlikely to gain maximum benefits without targeted content and localised communications.

As we are clearly seeing around the world today, localised content is essential to ensuring a brand’s success globally, and while some companies choose to begin with their region and then expand into other markets, we are increasingly seeing campaign planners taking global strategy into account from the initial stages, rather than as an afterthought – as global market comms add to every company’s bottom line, it is difficult to argue with this extra level of strategy! 

This is the perfect time to adapt your communications to appeal to all your lead markets. If you require any further information, or to see how we could help you with your translation needs today get in contact with us –

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