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August 8, 2019 |

Top 6 Golden Rules of Marketing Translation

Marketing translation is a mix of business and literary translation that comes with its own set of unique challenges. It usually involves a higher number of potential traps and pitfalls than the other two types of language services alone.

That’s because marketing materials are meant to convince readers in a way that’s different from business content or literature. As a marketing translator, you should stay on top of business translation best practices and master the art of transcreation at the same time. 

Here are six golden rules of marketing translation that can help you translate marketing material for your clients. 

1. Marketing Translation Requires an Excellent Knowledge of the Target Cultures

Marketing translation is different from other types of translation services mostly because it requires cultural insight rather than specific terminology. 

For example, technical translation services demand working with updated glossaries of terms and some familiarity with the corresponding industry. On the other hand, marketing translation focuses more on how well the translator understands the local culture.   

As a marketing translator, you need to know who your target audience is–demographics, interests, cultural background, expectations… Every detail makes your translation more accurate and more likely to generate engagement. 

Translated marketing materials should meet the same standards as the original copy. Whether you’re translating landing pages or business brochures, you need to understand your client’s goals and provide a translated version than can serve the same purposes. The only way you can do that is by knowing your audience well and what they like to hear from a brand. 

2. Marketing Translators Should Keep Open Communications with the Client

When working with marketing content, your text must capture the reader’s attention in two lines or less. You only have a handful of characters to make a first impression. That can put pressure on anyone! 

When doing marketing translation, take the time to analyze nuances in the original headlines. Things like intrigue, idioms, or humor are hard to translate, especially when they’re supposed to act as hooks for potential clients.

If you encounter any ambiguities in the original copy, discuss them with your client before moving forward with the translation. When you have open communication, you’re more likely to deliver exactly what your client expects from you. 

You should also make sure that you point out any cultural differences that could reduce the power of the copy through translation. This way, the client can give you further directions on how to overcome language barriers. 

3. Marketing Materials Are Adapted, Not Translated

Marketing translation is very similar to transcreation, as it requires more than rewriting the copy in a different language. In fact, many language service providers use the two terms interchangeably. 

That’s because, in the marketing translation process, you become a creative writer. You need to go beyond simple translation and adapt the content to appeal to a different audience. 

In transcreation, you pick the essence of the source content based on context and rewrite the message in the target audience, while keeping the meaning intact. 

To concentrate the original message into new content, you may have to add or remove words or substitute terms. This is because people from different cultures stand for different values and don’t always use the same idioms to express everyday concepts. 

4. Never Ignore Space Limitations

Space is an essential factor in modern translations. Brochures, landing pages, newsletters; they all come in specific templates that are often required to look the same in all languages. Whether you translate online or offline content, you can’t ignore the space allowed for the translation.

If you have some experience with the language pair, you already know how much extra space you need for translation–or how much white space you’ll have, depending on the target language. 

That’s why it’s considered marketing translation best practice to ask for the final layout before starting. This way you can visualize the advertisement, brochure, or packaging and find the right words that fit in the designated space. Otherwise, you risk wrapping your head around the perfect copy for days–only to find out your text is too long or too short for what the client needs!  

5. Slogans Are Rarely One-size-fits-all Solutions

Slogans are the trickiest part of marketing translations. Marketers work for months or even years to come up with the perfect combination of words that captures attention and triggers a reaction. As a translator, you may not have all that time to figure things out. However, you shouldn’t rush into a word-to-word translation. 

Slogans should remind people why they liked the brand in the first place. The motivation may vary for every other market, so rewriting the same phrase in multiple languages may not be the best idea.–unless you’re McDonald’s and say “I’m Lovin’ It.” 

However, even the famous fast-food chain had its share of criticism when it had to translate its slogan to Chinese. Instead of adapting it to the local market, McDonald’s chose to translate as closely as possible into the equivalent of “But I just like it” (or “I like it no matter what you say!”).

As you can see, the translation isn’t accurate and doesn’t reflect the idea behind the original slogan. This is clear proof that sometimes even the best can go for the easy (and incorrect) way out. 

6. The Brand Voice Should Remain Intact

Marketing translation shouldn’t change the brand voice, regardless of the target language. Customers in China, Spain, or Argentina should be able to recognize a brand when they travel abroad based on its content. 

Internet streamlines communication worldwide, without borders. The message you send in one country is accessible to people from all over the world through social media and can have significant effects on your client’s reputation. There’s no way for discrepancies to go unnoticed in the era of Instagram and Twitter. 

As a marketing translator, you should make sure that the copy is relevant to the local population, without diluting the brand’s core values. Discuss all changes with your client and make sure the decision-makers understand the implication of their choices.

Final Thoughts

Marketing translation is challenging, as it requires a unique set of skills and qualifications. Ideally, linguists who work in this niche should live in the target country, so they have direct contact with the local population and are updated about cultural movements and trends. 

When translating marketing content, you should keep a balance between the brand’s voice and the expectations of the local market. It’s a process that requires experience and excellent language skills, as well as cultural insights.

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