Most large brands go to a lot of time and effort to get to the right messaging to properly tell their story. This involves a lot of soul-searching, creativity, rewriting, brainstorming and approvals – taking up time from a wide range of people. But when the final approval is given and the brand guys breathe a sigh of relief… then what?
Having a brilliantly clever pay-off and a compelling story needs to cascade throughout the brand. Not everyone is in the loop in the initial work to create it, so they need to be schooled in the new brand. And they need tools and guidelines to help them (see also my articles ‘Do you have a Writing Style Guide?’ and ‘Are your brand texts escaping from you?’).
But it’s not just different parts of the business briefing communications you need to think about. Most large brands these days (and, increasingly, many smaller ones) make a large percentage of their sales in foreign markets. In fact, although it’s easy to think in your ‘master’ language, the reality is that a much larger number of customers are reading your messaging, and accessing your brand, through a different language.
And that means getting your translations right.
It’s tempting to just ‘throw’ your copy to a translations agency and forget about it. But it’s important to brief them properly too. Think about what they have to go on when they do a translation. Do they know, and understand, the background of your product and brand? Are there phrases you always translate in a certain way?
What happens if your brilliantly crafted copy in English (or your core ‘source language’) doesn’t translate at all in their language? Many brands use ‘transcreation’ to deal with this, especially for their more creative copy. This is a mixture of translation and original writing – it costs more and will require a much more robust brief, but if your top-level copy carries the reputation of the brand, it’s surely worth it.
Of course, it’s not practical (or cost-effective) to use transcreation for all of your copy. But you do need to think about other languages when you originally brief or write. Avoid idiomatic language, for example, and try to steer clear of cultural references. In fact, for some messages, there could even be a case for creating a separate English master for each country – which means some texts are adjusted to account for cultural differences and even language nuances. This can also give you the opportunity to tailor a text for differences in your business per country, like product specifications.
There’s a lot to think about if you want your brand messaging to properly ‘translate’ to another country. Sometimes just automatically replacing the words with those of your target language aren’t nearly enough. And translation can be a tricky thing – if you don’t understand the language it’s hard to judge the output. But there are ways to do this – with clever copywriting, proper briefing and reuse processes you can cut through the potential Tower of Babel that multiple markets can create.
How do you prepare your carefully crafted master text for translation? I’d love to hear from you!
About the author: Waynne Meek
Waynne is passionate about all things content, especially how copy merges with other elements to make compelling communication. A recognised career of 20 years spanning various media has given him a useful insight into the way copy works across brands. Armed with this experience, he has delivered and managed effective copy solutions, from award-winning internal magazines to compelling brand and product messaging. Find out more about him on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/