Marketing Translation: 6 Golden Rules for Effective International Campaigns


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Businesses with a global perspective are the winners in the age of eCommerce and digital marketing. In this context, marketing translation services play a major role in reaching new audiences.

The internet has become the stage for more and more parts of our lives. From work to grocery shopping, it seems like everything we do, we do it online. When it comes to shopping in particular, the internet has created invaluable opportunities for brands to reach new segments in an unprecedentedly efficient way.

The major shift in terms of workflow and lifestyle habits caused by the Covid-19 crisis forced many brands to acquire a new scope regarding online marketing. Global Business-to-Consumer (B2C) were expected to rise by 30% in the next two years, reaching $4.5 trillion in 2021. Although incredible when contrasted with other sectors, this would have been a minor rise considering the sector’s 200% growth rate over the past three years. Then the Covid-19 outbreak came along and accelerated the mass adoption of digital marketing and sales methodologies by five years.

With e-commerce came an incredible refinement of logistics. Brands are now able to reach customers on an international scale and deliver goods within days. Products go from the virtual cart to your door in less than a week. This accelerated the whole marketing, sales, and customer care processes.

Retail ecommerce sales worldwide

How Competitive is Digital Marketing?

In 2007, according to estimations, the average person consumed approximately 5000 ads per day. With the massive adoption of inbound marketing tactics, this number has risen considerably. Our very idea of what an ad is has shifted so much that producing an accurate estimation is no longer possible. Now, ads are just a minuscule part of the much wider, more diverse, and more complex landscape of omnichannel branded content.

If we’re already facing a competitive landscape at home, consider the added difficulty of creating and executing effective marketing campaigns for a new market.

A successful marketing strategy is the result of a series of good decisions. We need to derive the right conclusions from the right information and turn them into an eloquent plan. But something’s for certain: You can’t get any marketing message across if you’re not speaking your audience’s language. The role of marketing translation in international campaigns is a crucial one.

But, what do we mean by “marketing translation”? What are the pillars of the practice? How is it different from plain translation? In this post, we’ll explore the basics of the discipline, and propose seven golden rules for quality marketing translation.

What is Marketing Translation?

At first sight, it may be hard to differentiate marketing and advertising translation from plain direct translation. But, in fact, marketing translation isn’t just creative translation.

This is a term that we often use to refer to a process that involves both translation and localization. Translation consists of rendering a message from one language into another. But, marketing is such a complex discipline that translation doesn’t suffice. For this reason, marketing translation also involves localizing. In this context, localization means observing cultural and social preferences and trends, and adapting the message so it remains effective in its new context.  But, which parts of the message should be adapted? It can vary. From specific idioms to concepts, and even the general tone.

A properly localized marketing campaign allows a brand to deliver a custom message for a defined audience. While regular translation focuses mainly on making a text understandable in another language, marketing translation also needs to communicate emotions and ideas in a certain eloquent tone. The marketing translator isn’t motivated by the goal of accuracy alone. They need to connect with the audience on their terms and sell a product or a service.

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1. Don’t Underestimate the Role of Culture

You can’t conduct an effective cross-cultural marketing campaign if you don’t have a proper insight into your target culture. This may seem obvious, but nuances are easier to ignore than you may think, especially if your company is organizing its expansion process region by region, not country by country.

Marketing messages often involve humor and cultural references and appeal to emotion. A message that can be understood on several levels, that creates a sense of identification with the customer by appealing to shared common sense will be more effective than a plain one. But the more complex our message, the higher the chances that it will go wrong. Having a culturally-sensitive approach will allow you to appeal to a customer’s emotions without harming your brand’s identity and reputation.


2. Be Aware of Your Tone

Culture molds buyer behavior. For instance, in conservative cultures that praise careful decision-making, the more information you provide your customer, the better. On the other hand, language is more than a system of words. It has an intrinsic code of intentions and moods, and some words may be inflexibly context-specific.

The problem of tone is at the crossroad between language and customer expectations. Latin American consumers tend to be more welcoming to a warm, friendly tone. So, referring to your customers as if they were a life-long friend makes for effective marketing.

But, the “cool” and relaxed copy that may engage Western audiences is a no-go in most of the Eastern hemisphere. So it’s always more effective to tone-down messages that could be perceived as invasive or rude.

You don’t get to make a second first impression. Particularly if you don’t have in-house marketing talent from your target culture, it’s best to avoid unconventional communication strategies.


3. Implement Transcreation

When conducting multilingual content marketing, the wisest approach may be just completely reimagining your content. This is called “transcreation”. In this context, transcreation is marketing content adaptation that can grow apart from its source material, to meet new, market-specific needs.

Transcreation allows for a freer and more creative way to develop marketing content while ensuring that it’s in line with the cultural values of your target market. Rebuilding the content from scratch also makes it possible for us to target specific market needs. For instance, a piece of digital content that’s commonplace in your home market can be incredibly innovative in your new region.

Don’t forget that this can apply to one of your products or even your brand’s name. A product’s name may be difficult for your new customers to pronounce, or it may phonetically resemble a local word with a negative meaning. For example, Volkswagen’s famous sedan series, the “Jetta”, has an alternate name in some Latin American countries, since in local slang it means “bad luck”. This gave the brand the possibility to experiment with new and very creative names, such as “Bora” and “Vento”.


4. Preserve your Brand Identity

Regardless of your audience’s language, it is key to preserve your brand voice, so your global presence remains relevant and consistent through different markets. There may be cases where it is necessary to write content which deviates slightly from the original, so the translator needs to choose the right words to preserve the style that makes your brand unique, while also appealing to the local culture.

You also need to keep in mind that when you publish digital content, it is accessible from all around the world. And news has never traveled so fast. This means that a local mistake can harm your reputation worldwide.


5. Look for Universal Messages

Defining an overall strategy when building a marketing campaign may sound like a good idea. Marketing professionals will be able to identify certain values of your brand that can be perceived as “universal” or appealing to a global audience. This could be seen as particularly true when talking about product-related principles and values that align with your company’s mission. But this doesn’t mean that you can use the “one size fits all” trick: relying on simple slogans or an overly generic tone might render your brand irrelevant. After all, the purpose of marketing is drawing attention from the customers!


6. Be Format-Sensitive

While this surpasses the scope of marketing translation, it’s worth mentioning because format and content are often so interconnected that changes in our content may require changes in how it’s visually structured.

Chinese, Arabic, and English have very different writing systems. Keep it in mind when working on your brand’s material, as it may affect the way you visually organize information. Whether you’re working on website localization or brochures translation.

If you’re posting digital content, you’ll need to internationalize and localize your website. This reworking could allow for better readability and usability. Some design decisions such as fonts choices are subject to scrutiny. Your translation may be flawless, but if legibility is jeopardized, the message will remain obscure. Making a mock-up of the layout is widely considered a best practice concerning marketing localization, and this applies to both digital and physical or printed projects.

Marketing Translation 6 Golden Rules

Marketing Translation: Essential but not Conclusive

As we’ve explained, advertisement translation is absolutely crucial for international and multilingual marketing campaigns. But you will need to adapt your marketing materials in many other ways, rather than only focusing on written content translation.

Aside from translating and adapting your message, you should consider the images that accompany it. For instance, customer representations that look like your target audience are more likely to connect with them than generic stock pictures from your home culture.

It’s also worth noting that, when we’re doing marketing online, some practices that extend beyond content will still affect our campaigns’ outcome. This is the case for SEO. According to a 2019 Statista report, 65% of e-commerce sessions started in a search engine. That means that the search engine was the gateway to the online store. And 33% of this traffic came organically. But, anyway, that’s another story for another time, or to be accurate for another blog. So keep in mind that, with all these elements involved, it’s wise to partner up with a language services provider that provides holistic and goal-driven marketing translation services.

Marketing Translation Pushes
Your Business to New Heights

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bayantech is a leading language service provider. Since 2004, we have been providing ISO-certified, smart, and effective translation and localization solutions to major global businesses and organizations, helping our clients smoothly cross the frontiers of language and culture, communicate effectively worldwide, and expand their markets.


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bayantech is a leading professional language service provider, offering certified, high-quality, and smart translation and localization solutions in more than 260 different languages