Why translation just won’t cut it

Why translation just won’t cut it

Cross-cultural communication takes more than a good translator.

Your company’s messaging is sharp, clever and hip, and it’s worked wonders in your home market. And with good reason—you’ve invested time and money perfecting it. Expanding to a foreign market should be simple: hire a professional to translate your message in a way that is compelling and coherent, and run with it.

While this all seems logical, you may find that you’re unable to get the traction you expected. You wouldn’t be alone—some of the world’s largest corporations (Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble) have faced the same problem. But before you look for a new translator or invest in more publicity, consider this idea: your communications strategy may be missing its cultural target.

Any successful advertising campaign plays off the norms and values of the target audience. Your original message was successful because it struck an emotional chord with the consumer. Cultural dynamics are just as critical in your new market as in your original market, and you may need to spend some time re-working your strategy to fit the local context. This process, called transcreation, is now a critical tool for companies operating cross-culturally.

Here are three suggestions to help jumpstart your company’s transcreation process:

Identify the local need

In order for any company to successfully market a product, it must be able to pinpoint an unfulfilled need and develop a product that fills the void. Expanding to new cultures means your company will have to identify the needs  of your new market, and position your product to address them (known as localising). Depending on norms and consumption patterns, this could entail changing your target demographic completely. Don’t be afraid to make drastic changes to your communications strategy based on a thorough analysis of your new market.

Understand your target consumer

A beverage sold as a luxury item in Japan could be a necessity product in Canada; a beauty product targeting adolescents in Spain could resonate with young professionals in Brazil. Having a team of experienced communications professionals native to your new market is crucial for identifying your target and modifying your strategy to reach it. A strong team will maintain your brand’s identity while executing a comprehensive localisation plan.

Go back to the building blocks of your message

You developed your original strategy with care and intention: the colour and shape of your logo serve a purpose; the specific tone of your slogan is evocative for your target audience. Remember the original intent and work to translate for meaning rather than words. This could mean updating your brand colours, changing product packaging or incorporating different photos in your adverts in order to accomplish the same or similar goals. Leverage your native team’s knowledge and develop a new marketing plan that is equally as deliberate as the original.

New markets are a wonderful opportunity for your business to learn and grow. So, embrace the unknown, get to know your new potential customers, and transcreate.


  • Monday March 13th, 2017

    That’s exactly what we do at Connecta Languages, we translate ideas, not words, because a different language is a different vision of life.

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