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The global marketplace is full of opportunities for businesses to expand their reach and sell more of their goods and services. It may seem fairly simple to branch out into overseas markets and build on what you feel is the universal appeal of your brand, but there are many things to consider when marketing yourself outside your home country.
When creating an image for your brand overseas, it is important to take cultural differences into account. The idea is to be looked upon favorably, but different cultures look upon different things favorably.
Sometimes it’s the colors used that may attract buyers in one country, but not another. For instance, Pepsi lost market share to Coke in South East Asia after changing its color scheme to light blue, since that color is associated with death and mourning in the region. In other cases, it could have more to do with different shopping habits or the meaning of your brand’s name in a different country. One example from multicultural marketer Mike Fromowitz: in Italy, Schweppes Tonic Water was translated “Schweppes Toilet Water.”
Using your resources and contacts to make sure marketing materials have the right tone, appearance and look can mean the difference between sales success and a failed marketing campaign. It’s better to change your website colors or even modify your brand’s name if it means avoiding the embarrassment of an international mistake.
Different languages vary widely in the space their text takes up on a page, so just translating from one language to another and checking for mistakes and idioms may not be enough to make the site look its best. Multilingual sites should be customized when necessary to account for these differences.
Even the coding used to create the site is important, since search engines use tags and metatags to rank pages, and language is a factor. Creators should use different URLs for each language in order for the site to be optimized correctly, and metatags can indicate the language for each site so it receives the proper ranking and classification.
Translating website copy into different languages isn’t as easy as it looks.
Inbound marketing relies on content more than anything else to drive web traffic and sell products. Using automated translation software (e.g. Machine Translation) may make businesses think they are becoming multilingual, but only a professional, human-based translation service can ensure cultural relevance and prevent obvious translation errors that even the best software can’t catch.
Good website translation services have done their research and can include such details as popular keywords and search terms to give the site every advantage when it comes to drawing top traffic. Another thing translation software can’t account for is local dialects used by different countries that use the same language. Just as English is different in the U.K. and the U.S., there are many nuances to Spanish from one country to another in Latin and South America.
One ad by Parker Pen in Mexico was supposed to read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” A slight mistake in translation led to the word for “impregnate” being used, so the ad read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” Good to know, Parker Pen!
Having multilingual marketing campaigns poses an interesting dilemma: how do you know that a translation will be effective if you can’t speak the language and don’t know the culture? It is important to develop contacts and people you can trust who have the skills to evaluate the results and fill in the knowledge gaps for you.
Dynamic Language offers 30 years of experience in delivering professional translation and localization services for businesses expanding their markets to other countries. Contact us to see how we can help your business expand effectively into over 150 languages and dialects.
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