Beyond Words: Navigating the Challenges of Marketing Translation

April 5, 2023

Marketing is essential to almost every business, enabling companies to reach new audiences and effectively promote their products and services. In a world that is becoming increasingly global, these audiences extend across borders and language barriers, so engaging them requires marketing translation (also known as transcreation).

However, translating marketing messages across cultures can be a challenging task. While language is a crucial component of communication, more is needed to convey a message accurately, especially in a cross-cultural context. In this blog, we will explore the nuances of translating marketing messages across cultures and the obstacles that often come with it.

marketing translation, global marketing

Cultural Context Matters

One of the primary challenges marketing translation faces when seeking to reach new global audiences is the cultural context in which the message is delivered. A well-received message in one culture may not have the same impact or meaning in another. The key is to understand the cultural context of the target audience and tailor the message accordingly while maintaining the brand intent.

For example, a humorous ad that works well in the United States may not be appropriate in a more conservative culture like Japan or Saudi Arabia. Similarly, colours, symbols, and imagery can have vastly different meanings across cultures. For instance, while red is associated with love and passion in Western cultures, it symbolises luck and prosperity in China.

Language Nuances

Market translation or transcreation is more complex than just replacing one word with another. Language nuances can have a significant impact on how a message is perceived. Certain words or phrases commonly used in one language may not have an equivalent translation in another.

For instance, the English word “cool” can be used to describe something stylish, impressive, or exciting. However, the word does not have a direct translation in some languages, and the closest approximation may not convey the same meaning or impact. Therefore, translators must consider not only the semantics of the words but also the cultural connotations and associations they evoke.

global markets

Localisation vs Translation

Localisation and translation are often used interchangeably but are actually two distinct processes. While translation refers to converting text from one language to another, localisation involves adapting the content to the target audience’s culture, language, and customs. Localisation requires not only evaluation and adjustment of written content but also the design, images and formatting of a campaign to make it more culturally appropriate and appealing.

For instance, a company may choose to use local celebrities, landmarks, or events in its marketing messages to make them more relatable to the target audience. When localising the campaign for a different global market, these must be interchanged with those relevant to the new audience. Effectively localising campaigns like these can build trust with the target audience and increase the chances of a successful marketing campaign.

Cultural Sensitivity

In today’s multicultural world, cultural sensitivity is more important than ever when translating marketing messages. If an audience from one culture finds a campaign to be insensitive or offensive, it can lead to a backlash that can harm a company’s reputation and bottom line. For example, a Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner sparked controversy for trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to retaliation across social media and calls for a boycott.

By working with native, in-market translators and localisation specialists who have a deep understanding of a target audience’s culture, values, and sensitivities, brands can ensure that their message is culturally appropriate and respectful.

cultural diversity

Wordplay and language devices

Marketing professionals often use rhymes, rhythms or language devices, such as alliteration or assonance, to make their messaging catchy and memorable. While this tactic can be effective in the native language, it can create a massive challenge for marketing translation services. Direct translation will not replicate the effect, so imagination and creativity are needed to mirror the impact.

For example, the Haribo jingle, created initially in German as “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso” translated directly into English as “Haribo makes children happy, and grown-ups too.” It took some innovation and thought of the marketing-specialist translators to create the well-known and more musical “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo.”

Creating campaigns across cultures using marketing translation is a challenging task that requires a deep understanding of both the source and target languages and cultures. To achieve a successful result, it is always best to work with native, in-market language professionals who specialise in providing marketing translation services. By doing so, brands can effectively connect with their target audience, build trust, and grow their business on a global scale.

To learn more about our marketing-specialist translation and localisation services, please get in touch with our team.

  • US: +1 (347) 391 0672

European Office:

Kandoy House, 2 Fairview Strand, Dublin 3, D03 R8P3

  • EU: +44 (0) 121 296 9870