The tricky part about translating marketing materials is that what works for gaining sales locally may not work internationally. Clever campaigns that use a lot of wordplay or local references may translate poorly and confuse a new market. So, it’s wise to take some proactive measures before trying to market in a foreign language.
There’s a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to asking for a translation. If the translators adapt your content word-for-word, it could come across as mechanical or nonsensical. However, if they adapt it to the intended market’s culture, it may not necessarily align with the marketing message you’re trying to convey. Balancing these two dichotomies is a matter of following 12 best practices for translating marketing materials.
12 Tips for Translating Marketing Materials
Translating marketing materials is different from other kinds of translation practices because the language and messaging are continually changing. As you adapt to changing economic and cultural opinions, so must your strategy. This is what makes marketing translation particularly challenging. However, there are some ways you can improve your results.
1. Commit to global, not local
A lot of marketing departments operate with a limited perspective: they want to create something that directly appeals to their local target market. Consider something as simple as fonts. Many companies create their own as a way to underline their brands. That works just fine in applicable markets, but once you head into a foreign market where that font’s unique code isn’t supported, you’re back at square one. If you commit from the beginning to a global campaign, you can avoid these issues and proactively prepare for localization.
2. Keep it simple
That sassy, tongue-in-cheek tagline or marketing copy may not hold the same meaning across different audiences. Consider KFC’s snafu in the 80s, when they tried to roll out their “Finger-Lickin’ Good” campaign in China. When translated directly, the phrase was understood as, “Eat your fingers off,” which was undeniably unappealing for the Chinese audience. Simple language translates better than idioms, colloquialisms, or other complicated vernacular.
3. Take Advantage of an SSOT
The single source of truth (SSOT) is the living database that helps to guide all global marketing and translation efforts. The SSOT may include your translation memories, term bases, glossaries, and style guides. It centralizes these assets so that your entire localization team (internal and external) has access to approved terms and marketing approaches. It helps to avoid costly mistakes and unnecessary repeat translation work. And when everything is contained in one place, it’s much easier to keep this vital SSOT up to date.
4. Align with a single goal
Using an experienced team of translators familiar with the company and its messaging is the ideal way to ensure a robust and aligned marketing effort. These brand enthusiasts will be able to recognize the goals of the marketing team and how they fit into the overall strategy. They’ll have a better eye for noticing when a translated tagline doesn’t quite fit the brand messaging and be able to make recommendations for suitable adjustments.
5. Leverage in-country resources
Consulting with in-country experts is the best way to understand the local markets and customs. These partners can help you to put your marketing efforts into context. They can help you develop a glossary or term base for the intended market and, then, assist with translation review on the other end. This is one of the best ways to feel confident that you’re putting your best foot forward in a new market.
6. Don’t focus too much on translation memory
While the translation memory you used for other markets may seem like an excellent tool for marketing projects, keep in mind that marketing language changes based on campaigns, attitudes, and regions. As a result, translation memory may not be as vital here as it would be to more technical translations.
7. Segment your assets
Not all marketing materials have equal value. Your tagline, for example, is likely far more critical than an advertorial or page of content on your website. It is important to translate your slogan thoughtfully in a way that resonates with the intended market. This usually requires testing different options. On the other hand, generically written content may stand up to a more word-for-word translation strategy. Plan out these various strategies ahead of time.
8. Evaluate your audience
A working-class, blue-collar marketing message may not play as well in other markets where an American brand is considered a luxury, affordable only to the affluent. It’s essential to understand how the audience for a brand changes from region to region and adapt to it.
9. Don’t overlook visual elements
While the textual content is valuable, the visual components are equally valuable. For example, the color red in the US means something different than it does in China. Leverage your in-country expertise, and ensure that the graphics and colors of a site are adapted effectively from one market to the next.
10. Automate whenever possible
Advanced platform technology allows you to automate workflows and eliminate much of the administrative tasks that would otherwise bog down your localization schedule. By taking advantage of these tech benefits, your team can invest their time where it matters even more—with challenging and creative tasks.
11. Don’t expect immediate success
Keep in mind you’re probably going to have to go through multiple iterations with your translation to get it right. This is not a turnkey process; it requires a lot of collaboration. Keep your deadlines open and your expectations flexible.
12. Evaluate your results
Keep an eye on key metrics, like page views compared to conversion rates, to see how your marketing is translating to new audiences. When it underperforms, you can pivot. When it performs well, you can use the insight gained from that success to guide new campaigns.
Making Reports a Priority in Global Translation
One primary tool that will help you in your efforts to reach new markets is reporting. Ideally, you want a platform that will allow you to see precisely what is performing well, where, and why it’s succeeding. Breaking this data down to a granular level will help you scale your marketing efforts and improve conversion. After all, that’s what marketing is all about—getting people to try your product or service.
Translating marketing materials is not as straightforward as you might think. You can’t just translate the words; you need to pivot for new markets and adapt to meet their needs and interests. However, with the right translation partners who understand both your brand and target markets, you’ll succeed in your new global expansion.