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Marketing Translation: Everything You Need to Know

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Got Milk?

You’re probably familiar with that all-famous slogan by the California Milk Processor Board, which was conceptualized to encourage milk drinking. But the Board almost made a big blunder when launching this marketing campaign in the Latino market. Because when directly translated to Spanish, the slogan reads as “Are you lactating?” How awkward!

Realizing the issue early, the Board wisely decided to tweak the Latino version of its “Got Milk?” slogan. Incorporating the values of tradition and family, on which Latinos place a premium, the slogan was changed to a more suitable “Familia, Amor y Leche” (or “Family, Love, and Milk”).

When marketing and selling to an audience, you’ll need to present your campaigns in a language that the audience can understand. This calls for marketing translation if your marketing collateral is in a different language. And as the Board learned firsthand, your marketing needs to be translated in a culturally appropriate manner.

It’s easy to overlook (proper) marketing translation due to its potential complexity. But if you’re targeting audiences who speak different languages, and especially in the global markets, marketing translation can have a huge impact on your business, reputation, and success with a new audience. Don’t skip this crucial process!

Read on as we share what marketing translation is, why it’s important, and everything you need to know about implementing marketing translation for your business.

What is marketing translation and why should you use it?

Marketing translation is the process of translating your marketing campaigns and collateral into a different language (or languages). It can involve the translation of your:

  • Website marketing copy,
  • Social media posts,
  • Presentations,
  • Press releases,
  • Product packaging,
  • Product descriptions,
  • Posters,
  • Brochures, and
  • Any other marketing-related material, really!

While businesses often undertake marketing translation to enter new markets in different geographic regions, this isn’t necessarily the case. As long as you’re translating your marketing into a different language, that’s still marketing translation. Even if your newly translated material is meant for the same local audience you’ve been serving all this while.

There are many benefits of marketing translation, such as:

  • Helping you reach a wider audience: When you make your marketing collateral available in more languages, more people will be able to understand it. This helps you connect with more potential customers (especially if they are multilingual or speak a different language from you).
  • Increasing your brand awareness: As more people interact with your marketing in their preferred language, they’ll learn more about your business and your offerings. In the process, you’ll get to shape how they perceive your brand and foster greater customer goodwill.
  • Reducing your support costs: By translating your marketing materials into a language that your target market understands, you minimize the opportunity for miscommunication. As a result, customers may encounter fewer issues or misunderstandings with your products, and thus consume fewer support resources.
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction: When customers can readily understand what you’re trying to tell them in your marketing materials, they’ll have an easier time engaging with your business. They’ll also run into fewer problems with their purchase, which contributes to a fantastic customer experience.
  • Boosting your rankings in the local search results: From a search engine optimization (SEO) point of view, translating your web pages into certain languages can help them rank higher for searches conducted by users who want answers in these same languages.

5 things to keep in mind when implementing marketing translation

1. Set the scope of your marketing translation efforts

Translating your marketing will take time and resources. Hence, before you get cracking, you should have a clear understanding of the scope of this endeavor. Ask yourself:

  • Why are you implementing marketing translation? For example, are you looking to make your products available in more languages to your existing audience? Or do you have your sights set on the international shores, and want to enter new markets?
  • What resources can you dedicate to your marketing translation project? Consider how much money you can set aside for marketing translation. You’ll also want to set a reasonable timeframe for translating your marketing – such as a month, three months, or even longer, depending on the scale of translation needed. Last but not least, think about the extent of manpower you can allocate to oversee the task.
  • How will you translate your marketing? Will you be hiring linguists or professional marketing translation services and copywriters to assist with the translation? Alternatively, you might want to invest in an automatic translation tool, which can deliver high-quality translations at an affordable cost.
  • How will you know if you have succeeded with your marketing translation efforts? Set measurable goals that help you assess the effectiveness of your marketing translation project. For instance, you could monitor sales in new target markets after implementing your translated material. You can also seek customer feedback on their experience with your translated marketing campaigns.

2. Marketing translation is multi-faceted

Marketing translation isn’t the same as doing a simple word-for-word translation. It also involves:

  • Transcreation, where you create and translate entirely new marketing content in a different language, and 
  • Localization, where you adapt your translated marketing content to fit the local context.

Accordingly, be prepared to make multiple iterations of your marketing translations until you arrive at the best one. To carry out such iterations, you could first work with a local translator to identify which aspects of your original marketing materials need to be translated. When sourcing for translators, you can shortlist potential candidates based on considerations such as their:

  • Portfolio: You’ll want them to have experience working on projects similar to yours.
  • Expertise: This is especially if you need legal, medical, or technical translation, where specialist knowledge of the field is required.
  • Rates: Check if their fees fall within your budget.
  • References: What do their past clients say about them? These testimonials can provide crucial intel into whether they’ll be a joy or headache to work with.

After that, use an automatic machine translation solution to do a first layer of translation. (More on our recommended solution for this shortly!) Finally, engage experts in the local culture to fine-tune your translations for suitability for your target audience.

3. Your translated marketing materials should fit seamlessly with your brand

Your marketing translations don’t operate in a vacuum but form a component of your brand as you generate interest in your offerings. Therefore, take care to craft your translations to match your brand voice. For example, if sassiness is a signature aspect of your brand, then it should be apparent even in your marketing translations.

In addition, pay extra attention when translating your voiceovers, subtitles, taglines, advertising copy, and any other marketing materials that contain:

  • Jargon,
  • Humor,
  • Idioms, or
  • Examples.

What works in your native business language can have very different meanings and implications when directly translated into a foreign language. (Remember our “Are you lactating?” anecdote from above?) You’ll need to strike a balance between opting for a translation that your local audience can appreciate, while still being faithful to your brand.

Apart from ensuring that your marketing translations blend in with your brand, check that they also physically look good. If you’ll be displaying translated product descriptions on your packaging, can these descriptions fit into the designated space? Or will you have to redesign your packaging if the translated text is significantly longer than the original text? Alternatively, if you’re translating your website source text into a language that’s written from right to left, you may need to modify your website theme to maintain a good reading experience.

4. Cater to the local market’s cultural preferences

Different cultures have different beliefs, superstitions, and dialects. Leveraging these well in your marketing translations can help humanize your brand and foster more customer goodwill. However, disrespecting the local culture – inadvertently or otherwise – can cause offense and drive people away from patronizing your business. For example:

  • Avoid marketing clocks as presents to the Chinese as the gifting of clocks can symbolize the running out of time (and hence impending death) in Chinese culture.
  • It’s considered inauspicious to get a haircut on Tuesdays in India. Thus, in your marketing, you may not want to emphasize that customers head to your salon on Tuesdays. (On the flip side, though, some salon chains offer heavy discounts on haircuts on Tuesdays, which gets them a lot of sales!)
  • The innocuous-looking thumbs up are seen as a rude gesture in many Middle Eastern countries, similar to the use of the middle finger in Western countries. If your marketing collateral for the Middle East mentions the thumbs up, you may want to scrub out such references and replace them with something else.

In short, be extremely careful to cater to local sensitivities when translating your marketing for a certain audience. And it helps to:

5. Conduct market research to get feedback

Work to thoroughly understand your target market before you start translating your marketing. As mentioned, you’ll want to be aware of the local culture and preferences, including your audience’s likes and dislikes. If budget permits, engage consultants who can provide expert advice on these matters – they’ll serve as a treasure trove of insights on what to do, and what not to do, when marketing to the local audience.

In addition, get feedback on your marketing from potential customers themselves. For instance, conduct focus groups with a segment of your target audience to learn their opinions on your marketing translations, and what could be improved upon, before you roll out your translations. You can also do a small-scale release of your translations to test the initial public reaction before committing to a wider implementation.

And as the feedback comes in, adjust your translated marketing accordingly. Remember, translation is a continuous process! The changes could involve just making a subtle tweak here and there, but you may be surprised at how much more effective your marketing translations become afterward.

How to implement marketing translation

Various tools have been developed for a wide range of marketing translation needs – and for translating a website, Weglot is the ultimate translation solution. It integrates with a wide range of website platforms, such as WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow, and uses a proprietary mix of machine learning translations to instantly provide high-quality translations of website content. Over 110 target languages are supported, ranging from English to French, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, and more.

After using Weglot’s machine translation features to get a first pass of translation, you can manually refine your translations further. To do so, tap on Weglot’s built-in collaboration features to invite your project manager or preferred translation agency to review the translations. You can also order translation services from within the Weglot dashboard, then sit back as the translations are fed directly and seamlessly to your translation project.

Make Weglot the marketing translation solution for your website

With consumers being spoilt for choice, your business will need to nail your communication strategy to stand out. The key to successful marketing communication is finding the right message, and sending it across using the right method and language for your target audience.

Enter marketing translation, which works to present your marketing materials in your audience’s preferred languages. At the same time, it communicates your brand values in a way that respects – or even celebrates! – their local context. Marketing translation is a major effort, but employing the five tips we’ve shared above can help your brand be perceived favorably as you venture into new markets.

To learn more about effective global marketing, check out these articles:

You’ll also need to equip your business with the right marketing translation tools, such as Weglot! We’ve built Weglot for website translation at scale and efficient team collaboration.

This way, you can create and launch your marketing translations sooner – and quicker than the competition – to capture a larger slice of the market. Weglot is also affordably priced for all businesses regardless of budget. In fact, you can get started for free! Simply click here to start your free Weglot trial.

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