Many businesses consider themselves extremely lucky to have established a healthy customer base and break-even within in a few years. Some of these companies are successful in taking the next step and expanding to international markets. Only a few though succeed on their first try. When you make that decision to export your business elsewhere, it doesn’t matter how confident you are in your product, business plan, capital investment, and human resources. Unless you’re able to localize your brand’s message within the context of your international audience, your brand will never gain enough traction. To circumvent that barrier, companies hire translators and localization experts to ensure that the new market understands the company’s underlying vision correctly. But the solution isn’t as simple as that!
Lost In Translation
While globalization has opened up a plethora of affordable avenues that businesses can utilize to expand internationally, it hasn’t necessarily made the processes of expansion itself any easier. If anything, companies are constantly under the mercy of the internet and social media in the event of a marketing catastrophe; the simplest one of which involves a linguistic oversight within their marketing text.
Even global corporate giants who have precariously navigated the lingual landmines of foreign markets without proper care have found themselves in the center of public criticism from time to time.
Nokia, for example, brought their Lumia range of smartphones to Spanish speaking countries without considering the literal meaning of their flagship product. The name Lumia is often used as a shorthand for “prostitute” in a Spanish dialect, a dialect with a gypsy influence. Although the word is not commonly used but it still gained exposure and it first surfaced on Twitter and spawned a variety of comments – Obviously not a word the company would like to be associated with. Unfortunately, the realization came late for Nokia and they ended up facing considerable backlash for this error.
Even Pepsi once found itself between a rock and a hard place in China once. The company entered the region with the slogan ‘Pepsi Brings You Back to Life’. However, the precise words used to translate that slogan ended up meaning: ‘Pepsi brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave’. Hardly a minor infraction in a country where respect for the elderly and ancestors is culturally paramount.
Clash of Cultures
Although the aforementioned blunders are results of blatant inaccuracies in translation, there are many examples where companies misjudge their international clientele on a more subtle level. A notable example of that is a case that Proctor & Gamble were confronted with; their ‘Pampers’ diapers in Japan were consistently under-performing relative to their expectations. There were no apparent problems with the use of words and phrases in their marketing anywhere. However, a closer study of the issue revealed a problem with the art used in the packaging, which involved an image of a stork carrying a baby for delivery. Turns out this reference was never understood by the Japanese market because this story was never a part of their folklore.
These examples showcase the inherent challenge of entering foreign markets. Aside from flaws arising from literal translations, the culture of your intended region must be closely scrutinized in order to establish a deep connection with the audience.
Transcreation is the Solution
Getting a translator to convert your text-based marketing material into the local language of your international audience is one of the first steps in localizing your brand message. A more focused approach to translation with respect to marketing is called Transcreation. The aim of this process is to establish a connection with the audience on an emotional level. This can only be achieved with the help of individual(s) who have an incredibly deep understanding of the culture of your audience. They are best suited for the job of localizing your brand because they don’t simply review your content and produce as a literal translation of the text. But they analyze every word, identify the company’s intentions and form a bridge between the brand and the audience in which both understand each other perfectly.
This is done by reverse engineering the original marketing source material to pinpoint the core values the brand wishes to be recognized by. The translator, then, works with you to create content that traverses the nuances of the local language until the end result is achieved.
Translators specialized in transcreation are experts in the process of localization. They can advise you on potential pitfalls and suggest appropriate workarounds and save you tremendous amount of time, energy and money and ensure that your next international business venture is a roaring success and resonates deeply with your intended audience.