Marketing translations are a highly specialist area of work. All translation needs the correct strategy. A marketing text can easily sound stodgy and contrived if not undertaken by a marketing expert. Our starting point is understanding your brand. If you have existing translations or other marketing collateral, it is always useful as reference material for our translators. Wherever possible we will match previous work.

Marketing translations are highly subjective, and normally not very literal to the original. The aim is to produce an equivalent effect in the target audience to that intended with the original audience. This may sound straightforward to marketers, but there are many cultural and linguistic influences which can interfere.

Culture and marketing

Many examples exist of companies crashing and burning on the international stage by not considering culture. For example does your ecommerce website sell white wedding dresses in China? Not a good idea, as the Chinese wear red at weddings. Style and colour preferences can be very different from one culture to another.

Style and tone

Many businesses have brand guidelines. These may include stylistic issues, as well as tone of voice. Are your tone of voice guidelines based on English? Or do they also allow for cultural and value differences from country to country? Your relaxed, informal UK tone, may not appeal to a very traditional culture.

Germany generally uses quite formal forms of address, using titles and surnames, which are viewed as a mark of respect. German also capitalises many common nouns, so your lower case headings will look badly written to a German audience.

Japan has many variants of common job titles such as “manager”, as Japanese society is very hierarchical, choosing the right word, is important. Get it wrong, and you may not be showing appropriate respect. Translators make these kinds of decisions every time they work with any text, but this is especially true of marketing.

Marketing translations – use of humour and idiom

Marketing teams often spend hours or days over significant phrases like straplines. Use of humour or idiom, when done well, can be very powerful. In translation however, humour and idiom, are two of the hardest things to achieve. Firstly, there is the impact of culture. For example, Brits and Americans often laugh at different things, even though they share the same language. Why is that? Culture and situation affect humour.

With different languages, situational comedy may work, but plays on words almost certainly won’t. This is because if you have a duel meaning in the source language, the target language needs to have the same duel meaning. This is rarely the case.

Read more about marketing translations:

Marketing translation case study

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