Language translation can be complicated and mistakes are common. A direct translation can turn a strong advertising message into something funny, offensive or even plain nonsense. Search for “marketing translation mistakes” on any search engine and you will find plenty of examples.
The more practical question to ask though: how can you recognize a good translation and avoid miscommunication? There is no magic formula, but here are the main points to consider.
A good translator will always focus on the message when translating marketing or advertising content. Unlike a legal or technical translation, in marketing communications it is critical to make the message resonate with the intended audience. One has to go beyond a literal translation of words. Think of it this way; there is a reason why copywriters are hired. They add value by making a message interesting, impactful and persuasive — using as few words as possible. When translating such creative content into another language, it really deserves the same attention in order to be as effective as the original.
Understanding the culture of your audience is key when translating advertising content. Words may be translated correctly but they can have a double meaning or evoke a completely different reaction. Take Orange for example, a leading telecommunications provider that launched a campaign in Ireland with the line “The future is bright, the future is Orange”. If the writer had lived in Ireland, he or she would know that the term “Orange” is also a reference to Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organization. The term is often associated with unionism, sectarian and even supremacist. Not exactly the values that the Orange brand wanted to convey.
Even if you don’t have a formalized brand positioning, your marketing communications will have a certain style and tone that is inherent to your brand. It’s like a persona with characteristics that your audience will recognize. When marketing communications are translated into a different language, it is important to continue the same tone and writing style. A good writer will ask the right questions. Is your brand established and authoritative or new and disruptive? Does it rely on its heritage or innovation? Is it formal or informal in its customer communications? Whether it’s a website, a brochure or an ad, it is important to use the same brand voice. The more consistent you are, the more recognizable you will be.
As in all communications, what you see resonates more (& faster) than what you read. It’s how the mind works. Words and design collectively convey the message. You have to consider both when translating advertising communications. Does your imagery resonate with the foreign audience? Do the colors and symbols have a different meaning? These are the things to look out for. Check with someone who is close to the culture of your target audience. Often a small and simple correction can make a big difference.
© 2012 Branded Translations.
Branded Translations is a specialized language services agency. We help organizations reach multicultural and international audiences through quality translation and transcreation of marketing and advertising communications. For more information, visit BrandedTranslations.com.