Marketing Translation - Writing your copy for global use

Guest Blogger | Apr 25, 2012
This post was contributed by Wendy Pease of Rapport International, LLC and first appeared on Pease's Language & Translation Blog

You can't really "go global" with your standard US website and typical 8.5X11" glossy brochures.  Marketing localization requites a holistic approach which involves multiple disciplines including marketing translation.  One of the keys, though, is thoughtful copy writing.

Here are some tips from an expert. 

How to Write Copy for Global Marketing Localization

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 translation expertWendy Pease is the Executive Director ofRapport 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.