Copy-writing for global marketing

Guest Blogger | Mar 21, 2012
This post was contributed by Wendy Pease of Rapport International, LLC and first appeared on Pease's Language & Translation Blog

Simple steps to do it write

get it?

Working in international business one must never forget that language carries with it many implied messages and readers will infer based on their perspective through their local lens.

It's not up to a translator to craft your message for you.  You need to prepare it properly, with all the localized detail that is required and appropriate, and of course a consistent brand identity.  But you have to give them good material to work with, and this is a checklist from a veteran of points for your writers to keep in mind.  

1. Use clear language

Do not use slang, colloquialisms, or improper grammar. Catchy marketing phrases do not work across cultures and languages – sometimes they don’t even work in different countries with the same language. Electrolux was thrilled in the UK with the response to their slogan “It sucks”. They could not understand why it was not well received in the United States!

2. Drop local references or specific country places

Unless you plan on changing the marketing copy for each country that speaks the same language, do not make specific references to a particular geographic area or local customs. On the other hand, if you are targeting specific groups of consumers, it is best to adapt marketing materials to each country. In this case, use local references, terminology and the right currency.

3. Make pictures culturally appropriate

A well-distributed magazine about diversity and opportunity for African Americans featured an Allstate full page back ad with a glowing white family leaning out the car windows. Oops, wrong target audience. The pictures need to reinforce the ad copy and targeted audience. People notice the glaring errors and they also can pick out foreigners in local publications.

4. Allow white space

Translation expands the written copy and can be 20 – 30% longer depending on the language. A favorite example is “Fahrvegnugen” which is one German word but when translated it becomes four words in English – “the pleasure of driving”.

5. Make sure the original copy is well written

Even the best translation company can’t fix bad writing. Bad writing always equals bad translation.

6. Stay consistent

When you develop you marketing message, keep it consistent and use the same tested translation. Often, we see companies letting their in-country distributers translate the marketing materials. This is the equivalent to having the sales force write the marketing material.

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wendy pease rapport international translation expert marketing localization and languageWendy Pease is the Executive Director of Rapport International, LLC a full-service translation and interpretation company based in metro-west Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1987, she bought the business in 2004. The company offers foreign language translation and interpretation services in over 100 languages. Ms. Pease is also an expert on diversity training and international marketing communications.