Translating Your Multi-cultural Marketing Campaign to Another Language

Author: Peyton Benge
Posted: May 1, 2019

Writing a multi-cultural campaign is a lot like getting a tattoo. What you thought would be a cool cultural nod, was actually not cool and dreadfully damaging to your public image. Pop stars might be able to survive an innocent spelling error. But marketers? A botched marketing campaign translation will have your audience saying thank u, next — without the thank you.

 

As marketing professionals, we are constantly searching for ways to communicate more effectively. Our ultimate goal is to decipher a brand’s story and deliver it to a set target audience with as little confusion possible. So, when we mishandle a language interpretation, we lose credibility. Translation: We fail. Not only can a poorly translated campaign be ineffective, it can cause brand dismissal, loss of ROI, and damaging PR.

Before you even consider translating your next marketing campaign to another language or using a specific vernacular voice, you must consider whether or not the campaign itself is appropriate for that culture. Ask your team, “At its core, does this marketing concept appeal broadly enough to be effective across cultural demographics?”

Although our goal seems simple, shifting demographics can make presenting our messages across multiple dialects and regions challenging. When your team is tasked with multilingual marketing campaigns, consider these three key points:



No Redo’s. Only Research.

Before a copywriter taps a single key, there should be extensive research on the target audience and their organic language patterns. What cultural phenomena should we be aware of? What formal greetings should we use, and what informal phrases should we avoid? Identifying details like these will save you immensely in the long run.

Run it by Google, then run it by a professional. 

Although Google Translate has grown in its capabilities, the transcription tool is merely a starting point. After you have a rough translation for your branded message, have the text reviewed by a fluent speaker. If possible, avoid translation tools altogether and go straight to a credible source. Maybe it’s my bias against our future titanium overlords, but I believe the human element is crucial in avoiding translation tragedies. Plus, having your copy reviewed by a native speaker can enrich it with cultural nuance and a natural tonality that mirrors your target's communication style.

VI has in-house Spanish translation experts. How cool is that?

Having a native speaker write and review a translation is vital. If the English copy does not resonate with the target audience, just translating that isn’t going to give you the results you’re wanting. You have to keep the cultural differences in mind as well. The copy you present to the Asian community is not going to be the same as the copy you present to the Hispanic community. Ensuring that your content is relatable at a cultural level can help position a brand higher in that target’s eye,” says Michelle Cleveland, Marketing Coordinator and Spanish translator.

Maybe it’s my bias against our future titanium overlords, but I believe the human element is crucial in avoiding translation tragedies. Plus, having your copy reviewed by a native speaker can enrich it with cultural nuance and a natural tonality that mirrors your target's communication style.


Oklahoma Tobacco Helping Free Resources

Oklahoma Tobacco Helping Spanish Free Materials
Oklahoma Tobacco Helping Website - Spanish Translation

Don’t Force It. Finesse It.

I understand that your writing department shed buckets of blood, sweat and tears over that brilliant campaign slogan. But even more body liquids will shed if the team greenlights a headline that says, “Are You Lactating?” instead of “Got Milk?”

There are many instances where an English phrase has no literal translation to another language. If that clever tagline your team concocted is just too tough to translate, think of ways it could evolve without losing its richness and core meaning.

Pro Tip: If you know your campaign will be translated across languages and cultures, consider a more global approach during the concepting phase of your campaign. Keep the translations in mind from step one and avoid the headache later!

Rock-solid communication is the bedrock of marketing. It's the difference between winning business and losing market share. But if you remember these 3 keys (and the Ariana palm tattoo), you'll postpone public ridicule — and protect your reputation as a marketer.  

VI does a lot of work across cultures. Check out some of the work we've done for Native American communities.   

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