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Localising marketing material

Localising marketing material: you jus gotta!

There’s a famous myth in the translation world about the California Milk Board — they came up with that catchy slogan “Got milk?”. When they launched into the Latin-American market they translated their slogan directly, not realising that it would read “Are you lactating?” in Spanish — ew! In reality, it never went to print, they caught it before the campaign launched, and transcreated the slogan to “Familia, Amor y Leche” (“Family, Love, and Milk”) — much better! Localising your marketing materials is essential.

Marketing is an interesting field of translation because, in this context, style and tone are actually more important than accuracy. Marketing copy seeks to create a mood, rather than to convey specific information, and your communications with potential customers will shape how they perceive your brand. With this in mind, it is vital that your translator (a) writes well, and (b) understands the local culture and cultural references.

Find out more: Understanding (and meeting) new customer expectations

Source: Gartner Digital Markets’ 2021 Global Software Outlook survey.

How does it look?

It’s also important that your translations look good. Some languages use more words than others to say the same thing. Your snappy slogan should be equally snappy in every language, and — as with “Got milk?” — you may need to tweak it to achieve that. If your products descriptions have to fit into a designated space on the packaging — will the translation(s) fit? If not, you will either have to adjust the design, or edit the description. It’s important to build a good rapport with your Language Service Provider (LSP) and trust their advice, particularly when dealing with languages and/or cultures you may not be familiar with. An appropriate and well-written translation of your campaign can have a significant impact on your reputation, and overall success in a new market.

Cultural References

Did you know in China, clocks can symbolise time running out (and therefore impending death) so that friendly, fun alarm clock in your CTA won’t look so friendly in China. The thumbs-up sign is a rude gesture in many Middle Eastern countries (similar to the middle finger) so if you are using a thumbs-up icon, it should changed for this market. These are just two examples of potential hazards to avoid when localising your marketing materials, but there are many more. That’s why we only work with translators who are translating into their native language. Furthermore, for marketing materials, we use translators who live in the target market. For slogans, taglines and other key messaging, we recommend transcreation.

Find out more: Transcreation: the next level of Localisation

“Is it for me?”

Now more than ever, it is vitally important to respond to the needs and demands of diverse demographics and markets. Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach could be relied on to help you break into new markets; it could even end up losing you business. These days, if a piece of advertising isn’t in your language, you ignore it, because there will almost certainly be a similar product which is marketed directly to you.

Yes, it is fundamental that a company or product have a strong, coherent global image. But the best way to develop and sustain a ‘total’ identity is by making a place for it in local markets. And this adaptation is about much more than simply putting your marketing collateral through Google translate.

Related topic: Marketing Copy: Speak your Customers’ Language


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