How marketing translation can make or break your brand

Advertising and marketing are key in creating brand identity and many companies will spare no expense in hiring top professionals to ensure their brand attracts its target market. The same attention is not always paid to the translation of their marketing materials, however, which can lead to misrepresentation of their company, and even some costly blunders.

The importance of professional marketing translation should not be underestimated, but it’s also worth noting some of the specific challenges this field can have, and why it’s vital to employ a skilled translation service that specializes in the sector. Translating advertising copy requires a deep understanding of the nuances of the target audience culture and being able to replicate in a new country the impact a brand has at home.

Translating humor is no laughing matter

So much of marketing is based on humor, which varies greatly from language to language and culture to culture. Things can get particularly tricky when the humor is based on wordplay, such as puns or idioms. When this kind of copy is translated literally at best it can be nonsensical and, at worst, offensive. Take the classic example of KFC’s first restaurant in Beijing in 1987, where their famous slogan ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ was translated as ‘We’ll eat your fingers off’!

When attempting to render this kind of copy in another language, it’s highly recommended that you consider transcreation, rather than simple translation. This process takes onboard cultural differences and idiomatic language and creates a translation that works in the same way the original does for the new audience, though it might literally vary greatly from the original.

Repetition, alliteration, and rhyme

A lot of advertising language makes use of repetition, alliteration or rhyme to creative catchy taglines or slogans that are easy to remember. Think of KitKat’s ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’, Panasonic’s ‘A better life, a better world’, or Pringle’s ‘Once you pop, you can’t stop’. These kinds of literary devices can be notoriously difficult to translate; a literal translation in these instances could lose both meaning and the catchy sounds. Again, this is where transcreation comes into play.

A picture speaks a thousand words

When it comes to advertising, words aren’t everything. A brand’s logo, color scheme, and taglines all come together to create a brand identity and should all be considered when translating that identity for an overseas market. An image that is perfectly OK in one country could be confusing or insulting in another. Take the diaper brand Pampers, who found that their image of a stork delivering a baby confused consumers in Japan, where folklore says that new-borns arrive floating down a river in a giant peach. Or Gerber baby food who launched their product in the African market with a picture of a baby on the label. This horrified local customers as in many African countries the ingredients are displayed on the label in picture form, leading many to question if the baby food actually contained babies!

Color is also an important consideration, as the meanings of colors vary from culture to culture. In the US orange, for instance, is associated with fall, harvest, and Thanksgiving; in the Middle East, it is linked to mourning and loss. Knowledge of the symbolism of color and imagery in the target culture can be used to boost the brand image. Consider Red Bull who in China produces their drink can in gold with a red bull as these colors are considered to be lucky in Chinese culture.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to marketing translation than might be expected. Investing in a qualified marketing translation service could make or break your company in their new overseas markets.

Is your company planning to expand internationally? Get in touch with specialized marketing translator’s BeTranslation for more information or for a free quote today.

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