If your business is planning to expand into international markets, then it goes without saying that you’ll need a way to tell your potential customers about what you’ve got to offer. To do this effectively, you will need marketing translation services.
What is marketing translation?
As you might expect, marketing translation is the process of adapting marketing materials such as your website, brochures and social media, into a new language for a new target audience. Sounds simple enough.
But think back to when you created your brand. How much time did you spend thinking about the name, and what it says about you? How about your tagline? How long (or how much) did you spend on your website copy, making sure everything was written clearly, and in just the right tone of voice?
The point here is that the words you use to convey your brand are carefully chosen. It’s not just information you want to get across – it’s a feeling that will hopefully create an emotional connection with your target audience. When translating your marketing material into a new language, you want to make sure that same feeling gets into the hearts and minds of your new target audience as well. And that’s why marketing translation isn’t quite as simple as if first sounds.
Read on to find out some of the key areas you’ll need to consider when looking to communicate with a new, international audience, and how a marketing translation agency can help.
Which kind of translation will I need?
Broadly speaking there are three main types of translation service. If you’re investing in translation services for marketing (or any other purpose) it can be useful to understand the difference between them, so here’s a quick introduction:
This is the most literal type of translation, where a document is replicated word for word in a new language. It’s great for materials such as instruction manuals, technical documents, and any other content where cultural considerations and brand voice aren’t too important.
In most cases though, this type of literal, standard translation isn’t appropriate for marketing translation materials. At best, the words will fail to connect on the same level with your target audience. At worst, a word for word translation can cause offence or prompt ridicule. Pepsi’s ‘brings you back to life’ slogan is a good example of this: when translated literally into Mandarin the phrase meant ‘brings your ancestors back from the grave’.
To avoid cultural mishaps with your translated marketing material, you’ll need a more nuanced, creative approach to the translation process. This is where localisation and transcreation services come in.
Localisation is when a translator considers cultural aspects of the target language as well as linguistic ones when translating source material, and alters the copy or design elements accordingly. This could mean anything from adapting cultural references so they ‘click’ in the same way with the target audience, to changing the source material so it aligns with any beliefs, superstitions or values that may be present in the target culture.
Localisation goes beyond words too; a good advertising translation agency will look at design elements such as colour when carrying out localisation services. Yellow, for example, which in Britain carries sunny, happy connotations, is associated with jealousy and weakness just across the Channel in France.
If you want to know more about the difference between standard translation and localisation services, check out this blog.
In many cases the language specific wordplay and nuance of advertising and marketing materials won’t translate into another language, even with careful localisation. This is where transcreation is required. Here, a copywriter in the target language will create a new slogan, advert or other, based on the original brief and/or brand guidelines from the original language. This ensures nothing is ‘lost in translation’ and enables your marketing to convey the same emotional appeal to your new target audience.
It goes without saying that this requires an in-depth cultural understanding of the new target market, as well as expert copywriting and advertising skills. A good translation ad agency will be able to convey the same brand message to different target audiences.
The Marketing Translation Process
Hopefully the above has made it clear that effective marketing translation requires either localisation or transcreation processes, rather than standard translation, in order that your marketing material connects with your audience in the right way. So now you have a sense of which services you may need, let’s take a look at how you should go about preparing for a marketing translation project.
Start with 'going global' in mind
We know, planning for the future is hard and business can be unpredictable. But if you have an inkling that you might expand into international markets at some point, then it may be useful to create your marketing materials accordingly, avoiding things like idioms or any gestures that might not translate. Of course, this should be balanced with bringing the required personality and emotive elements into your communications, but it can make the process of translation a lot easier in the future if you design materials with this in mind. A good marketing translation company will be able to read your copy over to check how translatable it may be to other markets.
Find the right advertising translation agency
Working with the right translation partner is key. At Wolfestone we have helped businesses successfully take their products to new international markets with our specialist marketing translation services. We take every care to understand your brand and your customers, then use our blend of creative translation skills and marketing know-how to create marketing translations that really click with your target audience.
Effective translation of marketing materials takes time. One mistake we see companies make is to assume that marketing materials can be turned around in a similar timeframe to standard materials such as technical documents. The detailed consideration of the nuances, and the number of revisions often required to create effective marketing translations means that you should be thinking in weeks, not days for a completed marketing translation project.
Once a first draft of your marketing translation is ready, it’s vital to get feedback from other translators who speak the target language to make sure the intended message comes across. Be aware that feedback may often be diverse – everyone will have their own unique opinion on marketing materials, and this type of non-literal translation can be more open to interpretation. But a thorough review process like this will help ensure the marketing translation is effective as it can be.
The exciting part! Once you’ve ticked all the boxes above, it’s time to start spreading the word in your new target market(s)!
Having covered the type of translation you are likely to require, and the process this may follow, we’ll finish by looking at the different types of content you may translate, and some key considerations for each of these.
Your website is often the first port of call for many customers wanting to find out more about your brand, so it’s a good place to start when translating marketing materials for a new audience.
It might be tempting to opt for a free machine translation tool such as Google Translate, or one of the many translation plugins available to translate your website copy. However, while these automated translation tools are improving all the time, they have a long way to go before they can pick up the same nuances as a human can. There may also be inaccuracies in word choice and grammar – if you’ve ever struggled to understand a website after clicking ‘Translate this Page’ option, you’ll know what we mean.
To showcase your business in the best possible light in your new target market, we’d always recommend a human translator for your website copy. As well as a more nuanced understanding of the language you have used, they will be able to localise your content to the new target audience.
Here are a couple more considerations when it comes to your website:
While you may be well enough established in your own country that your business ranks well in key search terms, in your new target market you are an unknown quantity, to both your customers and the Internet search engines they will use to find you. If the Internet is going to be an avenue for your customers to find you (and let’s face it, that’s the case for almost every business these days), then investing in multilingual SEO will almost certainly be worth doing.
SEO of course, is the process of optimising your website and online content in order that you are found for the key search terms relating to your business. If you can incorporate the right words into your online marketing materials in a natural, reader-friendly way, the search engines will notice and rank you well.
When translating your website into a new target language, it might make sense that you would translate the key words as well. However, this doesn’t take into account differences in culture or search habits in this new target language.
To have a greater chance of success, you will need to conduct keyword research related to your business in the new target language, and incorporate these terms in your copy. This could be within the website copy itself, or within your international content marketing. By aligning yourself to the natural search habits of your customers in your new target market, you will give yourself more chance of being found.
We’ve covered this topic in more detail in our blog: What is Multilingual SEO?
Another way to increase your visibility and trust to potential customers in this new market is to structure your domain so it has a country specific version of your website. This is simple enough to do, and most domain management platforms will have an option to do this.
There are three options available to you:
1: In-country domain, e.g. www.wolfestone.fr
2: Subdomain, e.g. www.fr.wolfestone.com
3: Subfolders, e.g. www.wolfestone.com/fr/
That might all seem a bit abstract if you’re not a web developer, so we’ll briefly layout the pros and cons of each.
This option has several advantages. It increases your SEO, is better for geotargetting and can influence consumer trust, as they see you as ‘native’ to their own country. What’s more, the website can be customised for each specific region. In terms of your searchability, an in-country domain is probably the best option.
In-country domains do have a few challenges as well, however. Firstly, they are harder to manage technically, as you have a separate site to manage for each country. They are most commonly used by larger brands, as they are more expensive to operate as well. There is an argument that in country domains don’t have the prestige of a .com as well, though perceptions around this are gradually changing.
Subdomains are easier to manage than in-country domains, as they remove the need to customise all of your content for a specific market. They do still allow you to use search console geo targeting as well. Not many brands use this approach, though it can be a good option, particularly if you have a lot of content and sub folders.
There are a few drawbacks to consider with subdomains as well. The user experience can be affected, and we’d always recommend exploring how this would affect your site before choosing a subdomain structure. The subdomain approach can also affect your SEO, and it can be difficult to build up any kind of ‘domain’ authority’.
For smaller brands, this is the most popular route. Here, you would retain your usual .com (or other) domain name and have a subfolder for each country. This is simple to manage, and the most cost effective way of customising your brand’s presence for a new, international target market.
Note: You may also hear of the aforementioned translation plugins, which allow users to translate your page into their language with a simple click. As we mentioned before, these use machine translation and often cause errors, so we wouldn’t recommend using them. The three options above all allow for your content to be professionally translated, and localised to your target audience.
One final consideration with regards your website copy translation is the layout on your site. It might not always seem like it, but English is actually one of the most efficient languages in terms of word use, and other languages will very often use more space to say the same thing. French, for example, takes up about 15% more space on the page when translated from English.
This is worth considering if the copy on your site is placed in a very tight space; you may need to reconsider the design to make it easier to convert to other languages.
It’s not just your digital marketing translation that you need to consider. More traditional, hard copy materials will need translating as well, especially if you are considering attending trade shows, contacting customers using direct mail campaigns or creating brochures in your target language.
For any brochure translation or other printed marketing materials, we would use much the same approach as with your website copy. The content should be appropriately localised with both the languages and the images reflecting the local culture. If transcreation is required for headings or other creative elements of the text, then this would be carried out as well, to ensure all material has the required impact with the intended audience.
As with website copy, layout should be considered as well, especially for brochure translations with a lot of copy, as the new language is likely to take up more space than the English.
There’s no question that video marketing now has an important part to play in any digital marketing strategy these days, with research suggesting that nearly three quarters of customers will watch a video when making a purchase decision about a product. If video marketing is part of your strategy, then translating this material for your new audience will be key.
There are a few different ways you could do this. If actors are used in the video, you could create the entire production anew in the target language. This will obviously be expensive, and would involve working with a video production team in the new country.
A second option would be to use subtitles. Of course, we’d always recommend a professional agency for this, as the auto-caption options will never produce an accurate representation of your copy, and certainly won’t be able to perform those essential localisation services to the wording.
A third option would be to use a professional voiceover service, to dub the original video on your website. The most common options here are lip-synching or dubbing, though you might also hear of a ‘UN-style voiceover’. This is quite a specific style in which the original speaker can also be heard in the background, but the translator’s voice is the clearer one. You might use this if you want to make it obvious to an audience that a speaker is being translated.
A fourth (and more forward-thinking, futuristic) option would be AI, which can be used to make it look as though a speaker is talking in the target language. You might choose this option if it’s important that a particular brand ambassador, or company founder, is seen to be delivering the talk.
Our partner company, VoiceBox, offers professional subtitling and voiceover services in over 200 languages, across a complete range of industries. If you are looking for high quality video or audio translation services, you can find out more about what they offer here.
Video translation tips
Whichever option you choose, a few pointers can make the process marketing video translation a little easier.
As we discussed earlier, creating your marketing materials with internationalisation in mind from the start will help a great deal when translating them for new markets, and this is especially true for your video content. Try to avoid any gestures, expressions or visuals that might not be understood in other countries.
If subtitling is an option for your video translation, then try to make sure that the ‘action’ occurs in the top two thirds of the screen, so there is room for the text at the bottom. Also, avoid any on screen subtitles in your own language within the video – removing them can be an expensive process!
If you opt to dub (or to use AI), then timing is the major consideration. Just as you should be aware that your website copy might take up extra space when translated into a new language, so you should consider that it might take longer to read the script on your marketing videos when they are translated into a new language as well. So it’s a good idea to leave pauses in your delivery, to allow for the extra time the script might take to read.
If you use social media to communicate with your audience in your home country, then the chances are you’ll want to do the same for your new audience as well.
Two key considerations when designing your social media strategy for your new international market would be:
We hear all the time about the ubiquity of Facebook, but it’s not as all-encompassing as you might think. For a start, the platform is banned in China, and in Russia most people use an alternative version called VK. That’s two major markets you could be missing out on right there! So a little research and inside knowledge when it comes to your choice of platform can go a long way to helping your business integrate in a new target market. Many countries have their own social networks as well: Germany has a popular site similar to LinkedIn called Xing, while the equivalent in France is Viadeo.
Professional translation services can help you identify the right platforms for your social media marketing, and hone your messaging accordingly in the new target language.
Language and Tone
Perhaps more than any other marketing channel, social media is about coming across as authentic to your target audience. So just sticking your tweets into Google translate won’t cut it – you need to make sure that the style accurately communicates your intended brand voice. This is where a professional translation company can help, localising your social media posts to help your communications with customers come across naturally and in the style that reflects your brand.
You can find out more about designing an international social media strategy here.
We hope this guide has given you a few ideas to think about when designing your marketing strategy for a new, international audience. At Wolfestone. our professional marketing translation services have helped businesses across a wide range of industries expand into international markets all over the world. We are known for our dedication to excellence and our ability to help our customers get results with our marketing translation services.
To find out more about how our marketing translation services could help you, contact us here.
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