Translation is often considered the first step to successful integration of a business into a new market. However, the term translation is relevant to more than just traditional language. When it comes to businesses, translation is a term that should be applied to brand names, advertising campaigns, and everything in between.
Choose Your Words Carefully
As a universal issue facing almost any business expanding abroad, the translation of slogans and marketing content into a new language can pose far more issues than many companies imagine. Obtaining a direct translation of a brand name or slogan into another language is the easy part, but once that is complete marketing teams have the task of ensuring that the words are just as relevant in the new market as they were in the original.
Language differences are often complex, and require the expertise of a professional to get right. In fact, even some of the world’s biggest brands have made the mistake of discounting the importance of language differences in the past.
For example, KFC first infiltrated China using its original slogan ‘Finger’-lickin good’. Unfortunately, the literal translation in Chinese was “Eat your fingers off”, in an error that forced the company to rebrand before continuing their sales push.
This concept also applies to puns and slang terms, which can be used for humour in a country of origin but don’t always translate to alternative markets without significant adjustment.
Addressing Cultural Values
Aside from the translation of culturally relevant words and phrases, many marketers are concerned with the impact of cultural values and customs on businesses hoping to expand overseas. On a basic level, this can be as simple as different tastes in food and drink.
Take food for example; cultural demand in France encouraged fast food company McDonalds to begin serving beer and wine on their premises – a practice that is not embraced by the firm in many of its thousands of branches in other countries.
On the other hand, cultural differences can run as deep as centuries-old traditions, which can render some marketing campaigns irrelevant, confusing or even offensive. One such instance involved international nappy firm Pampers, which was launched in Japan by umbrella corporation Proctor & Gamble. Having seen great success with its domestic marketing campaign, Pampers continued to promote itself with an image of a stork delivering a baby on its packaging. However, research by the company revealed that Japanese parents were confused by the images due to the difference in folklore between Japan and the brand’s original target audiences, including the US and the UK. In fact, the research revealed Japanese parents teach that babies are brought to their parents by large floating peaches, which is rather different from the leggy water bird depicted in the Western world.
The Social Media Maze
Now one of the most crucial aspects of any business’ marketing strategies, social media is certainly a top consideration when it comes to expanding abroad. However, once again it’s not just direct translation that’s likely to affect a company’s success abroad. When it comes to social media, choosing the right target audience is crucial to ensuring resources are well spent. For example, people in the US and Europe focus much of their social media effort on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, making them a prime target for local businesses.
However, this is not the case in China and Russia, where local social media sites hold the monopoly on social networking. In Russia, it’s LiveJournal and Vkontakte that grab the public’s attention, while China has a broader focus split between Renren, Youku, Mixi and many others. By embracing the different social media preferences of other countries, businesses can ensure their marketing efforts are elevated to the heart of the country’s online world, preventing wasted resources and encouraging brand engagement with a more targeted audience.
Method of Delivery
How a message is delivered is a crucial point to consider and social media is just one option here. On a broader level companies must choose which marketing channels they use to communicate their message in different countries. The best approach depends on the audience and the most successful international campaigns start with research to determine exactly what works where.
Russian audiences, for example, are particularly responsive to digital marketing. The country has 87.5 million active internet users and some 67 million active social media accounts, according to data from WeAreSocial. Estimates suggest that the country spent around $36 billion on online purchases in 2015.
The country’s comparatively poor infrastructure, however, makes print and events less attractive, so for Russia at least, digital material looks to be more likely to show returns. But careful prep work looking at sectors and demographics for each market will determine how best to distribute spend between marketing channels.
With so many factors to take into account, it’s important that firms considering international expansion engage the right team to help them develop a successful global strategy that can be effectively localised. Businesses can then focus on building each local presence using a method relevant to the individual market.