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Do Not Let Your Translation Provider Hurt Your Brand

Brand Advertizing Localization
Do Not Let Your Translation Provider Hurt Your Brand
on May, 01 2015

Localization is a marketing and brand strategy that most global companies now realize as an effective tool to reach their target market quickly and effectively. It means they are able to talk to their foreign target audience in a language they are comfortable with. But what if the translation agency doesn't understand the company's brand strategy and just do a regular translation of the brand's message that has been brainstormed and creatively crafted by a seasoned copywriter?

Advertising messages and product slogans made by  advertising agencies are expensive, so don't waste your money by using a cheap translation on your perfectly crafted campaign.

When a company wants to go global, one of the marketing strategies that needs to be implemented correctly is to engage and reach the target audience quickly, easily and efficiently as possible. However, it should be done creatively. The translation company that does the localization work should fully understand the meaning and intent of the brand's message before they start translating it.

A brand's integrity could suffer from haphazard translation work. If the translation provider only wants to write the words in the target language, then how would it be possible for the company to protect the brand? There had been cases when the brand suffered from local mistranslations as well. While we are not talking exclusively about mistranslations here, it should be pointed out because they cost the companies plenty of money just to correct those mistakes that could have been avoided in the first place if due diligence and thorough understanding, on the part of the company and the translator, had been exercised.

Some costly translation mistakes

HSBC had been running their U.S. ad campaign with the tagline "Assume nothing" for five years. However, in 2009 they decided to bring the campaign overseas. But the tagline was translated as "Do Nothing" in many countries, which seriously hurt the bank's image. In the end, HSBC had to spend $10 million to have their tagline changed to "The world's private bank," which was easier to translate into any foreign language.

Electrolux is manufactured by a Swedish company. In their home country, they were using the tagline, "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux" for their vacuum cleaner. When the ad campaign was brought to the United States, they failed to consider the local slang. Since in the U.S. "sucks" means "bad" or "rubbish," the ad campaign did not garner the desired effect from the American market.

In 1978 Braniff Airlines got into trouble when their U.S. slogan, "Fly in Leather" was brought overseas. It was still correct in its Spanish translation, "Vuela en Cuero," however, in Mexico, the slogan became different. It was translated as "Fly naked," which was not the intention of the airline.

The brand must be protected

Marketers should make it their top priority to protect their brand as this is the most precious commodity of any company and should not be allowed to be lost in translation. Likewise, a translation should not be taken for granted just because there are still so many hurdles that have to be faced before a campaign could be translated. The company has to decide on the concepts, the legal approvals, the content creation, imagery, and production. Only after all of these are done and the advertising copy has been written and approved can the translation proceed. It would be a good idea at the creation of the brand campaign to know if the brand tagline is something that would be easy to translate into other target languages.

During the translation process, the company must make sure that the translator is competent and clearly understands the meaning and intent of the brand's campaign, its copy, and tagline/s and that the communication slant, tone, and approach, as well as the intrinsic qualities of the brand, are conveyed correctly.

Sometimes straightforward translation is not the answer. Rather, it is better to have an entire brand campaign transcreated so that it could be adapted to the language and culture of the target audience without losing its context, tone, style and intent. If a brand's message is transcreated successfully, it would carry the same intent and arouse the same emotions as the source language.

Getting the best results from the translator

There should be an open discussion between the translator and the marketer. The client should ask the translation company how they would go about the translation work, including knowing who will be in the team that would handle the account. Once the right team has been assembled, it is up to the client to provide very clear guidelines regarding the brand, its values and their expectations from the translation team.

Select the translation agency carefully. Know who their previous clients were, what they have done for those clients and their industry reputation. Do not just go for speed and rate. Go after quality, their skills, and their creativity to present you with options, including transcreation. They should likewise also be responsible and answerable for all their output.

The translation company should have translators who are skilled in advertising, copywriting and have deep knowledge of the subject matter. The translation should be holistic, meaning it could be adapted to all mediums. If possible, ask for back translations into English, which would show you how realistic and adaptable the translation had been.

Most of all, be involved all throughout the process of brand's message translation or transcreation.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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