Building a brand can be difficult, time consuming and frustrating. If you’ve been there and done it, you know what we mean. In most cases, entrepreneurs or companies build their brand to serve one country, but in the off chance they’re creating a brand to serve multiple countries and cultures, things can get messy. Why? Because unless you’re actually willing to localize your new brand, chances of success are dim.
One of the biggest brand accelerators is localization, and just so that we’re clear, localization means more than just translation. You’re going to need to adapt your brand to meet your audience’s needs. Selling to a worldwide audience at first might seem like the ideal way to increase your profits. Thing is, if you don’t get your messaging right you could end up talking your way out of increased revenue.
At GTH, we’ve seen this scenario play out too many times. Companies come to us asking for translation work, and we’re happy to do it, seeing that we cater to over 150 different languages. Before we get started, we ask the client why they need to use our translation services. The majority of the time, the response is the same. “We’re looking to expand into X and Y countries”.
This is where we collectively shake our heads.
Expansion isn’t simply translating the content you’ve got into another language! Let’s take a look the eCommerce wide ranging vertical as an example. In 2016, retail eCommerce sales reached 7.4% of all retail sales. It’s set to increase to over $4 trillion by this year (2020), making up 15% of all retail spending globally. This is huge! In fact, much of this percentage comes from international sales. Currently the UK holds the highest percentage of online shoppers at 15.4% of all retail sales, followed by China (13.8%), Norway (11.5%) and Finland (10.8%), and the leading destination for those sales is the United States, followed by China, the UK and Germany. By the end of this year, nearly 1 billion consumers, which is almost half of online customers, will purchase products and services from a business abroad.
Why have we given this stat on eCommerce? Because the markets are global. You can’t be thinking about your own market if you want to target another country. One glove doesn’t fit all, no matter what the person who sold it to you said.
If you’re in the UK and you want to play an online casino game that’s designed and developed in Australia, language won’t pose a problem for you. However, if you’re a Chinese customer wanting to place a wager on the next eSports tournament from an American sportsbook brand, language will play a much larger role in your purchasing decision. To prove this point, 95% of Chinese customers prefer to shop on websites that cater for their own language, according to a recent Forrester report. In Europe, that number is almost half, at 42%, and yet still represents a sizable population that must be catered to, especially if you’re going to be successful.
If you’re an international business and you’re looking to increase revenue through internationalization, you’re going to face a number of challenges when targeting foreign audiences, not least of which will be the complexity of translation and localization. The ability to present your offering to multiple markets in their native language must be at the core of your expansion strategy, and translation must be treated with the utmost care. But please be aware that translation is just one part of the localization process. Translation is a big part, and stories of poor translations are all too common in international business. If you didn’t already know it, we can tell you as a global unified localization provider that bad translation can cause a blow to your bottom line rather than boost it. Avoid such pitfalls by localizing your website through not just translating content, but also adapting it to a local audience.
So what’s the difference between translating content and fully undergoing localization? Let’s take a look at some examples we’ve studied over the ten years we’ve been in business. We’ll cast our gaze over at the airline industry. Airlines have provided some of the best examples of faulty translations. Why? Because they’ve not taken localization into account.
The first example of bad or zero localization is that of Braniff Airlines. This airline boasted all-leather seats on their planes with the slogan “Fly in Leather”. The Braniff Airlines print, TV and radio ads gave the image of a high-class airline until it came to translating the slogan for a Spanish-language radio ad, aired for the Florida market. While “en cuero” technically does mean “in leather”, in colloquial Spanish it means “naked”. So, Braniff Airlines advertised “Flying naked”. Brilliant!
Another example sees another airline making a similar mistake. This American airline promoted their posh “rendezvous lounges” on their Boeing 747s. The campaign was met with success until it reached the Brazilian market, where the nuanced understanding for “rendez-vous” is a room rented for prostitution. Understandably, Brazilians were reluctant to use an airline boasting this feature.
Both function and culture must be considered to achieve successful native language translation and meet the expectations of the target audience. Functional content is easier to spot and amend as it is logic based rather than tradition or experience based. Here are just 3 examples:
1. Date and time formats (06/26/20 versus 26/06/20)
2. Text direction (left to right versus right to left)
3. Weights, measurements and currency (metric versus imperial, USD versus CNY)
The cultural or traditional aspect of translation is harder to define, and simply translating words can lead to more confusion than clarity, making it a delicate operation. To successfully translate content to a native language, cultural expectations must be addressed while avoiding offense in relation to images, icons, humour, etiquette, values, beliefs, and traditions.
For instance, when marketing a product or service abroad, translation is not enough; localization is the required method to ensure your message is clearly understood, and in the next section, we’re going to be expanding a lot more on localization.
Coca-Cola clearly put effort into translating their marketing messages well and does a great job of localization. When the 2011/2012 Australian Share-a-Coke campaign went global, the 150 most popular Australian names were changed for Denmark, Norway, and the UK. In doing this, Coke recognized that correct localization often goes beyond simple name changes.
In China, the sheer volume of first names made them implausible to use, and instead Coke bottles displayed common nicknames such as Classmate and Close Friend along with popular compliments from Chinese social media. This proved to be a hit with China’s youth market, and led to a spike in Coca-Cola sales within the region.
Are you now beginning to see the bigger picture with regards to localization?
Globalization is clearly a way to increase revenue opportunities, and this is the reason you’re looking to expand your brand. Reaching out to new markets is key to growing a business, and cross-border trading is predicted to continue growing for years to come. By planning your linguistic messages as part of your growth strategy now, you’ll be ready to claim your stake of global customers and expand your business beyond geographic barriers.
Investing in localization will ensure you reach your target audience with the right messages, boost your bottom line and become less dependent on your own local markets.
GTH translation is a premiere global localization agency, servicing companies across all industries. We have, for the past ten years, empowered businesses to localize their website content and optimize success by transforming language barriers into revenue-maximizing opportunities.
Get in touch with us and we’ll show you a localization strategy and pathway that can boost your business and take your brand to the next level.