Global companies put a lot of time, effort, and money into developing and defining their corporate brand voice.
The creative process—often involving external agencies, marketing managers, brand managers (digital as well as analog), sales managers, and c-level executives—can be long and contentious. The brand’s target demographics, the company’s values, and the desired market image are among the many influencing factors that require input from various stakeholders—each of whom may have very strong and potentially conflicting opinions. Language is subjective after all.
Following this substantial investment of time, effort, and money to hash out brand voice and terminology in the source language, the content is then sent out for translation—generally to translators who have no prior experience with your brand.
Translators are trained professionals, but they are also human. As such, they will interpret your message within their own frame of reference and render that interpretation in their native language. So, the question is: How do YOU control the translators’ interpretation to make sure they understand what you are trying to do?
Based on our many years of experience, we recommend the following strategies to help you achieve on-brand localized content:
Determine what “language quality” means to you. Language has a strongly subjective aspect. That your translated text should be accurate and grammatically correct is a given, but you also need to factor in style and brand voice. Assign ownership of your local language brand voice to a native speaker whose linguistic skills you trust, and involve them in the process.
Conduct language pre-flight. Work with your language services provider (LSP) to create terminology glossaries incorporating “soft” terms that define your brand; brand guides describing your ethos, tone, and other defining factors; and style guides that define local grammatical conventions. Next, your LSP can leverage these assets to perform style testing with at least three different translation teams per language and help you pick the team whose style best aligns with your brand voice.
Be patient and provide detailed feedback. With high-quality reference materials, translators can learn your local brand voice. However, this process takes considerable time (literally months or even years) and effort, as feedback must be very detailed and frequent.
The language pre-flight process can seem daunting, but it represents a worthwhile investment in both time and money. Consider how much work you put into crafting your brand voice in the source language—other languages require the same amount of attention to detail and effort to get right. This investment on the front end can pay back huge dividends in faster turnaround times, fewer review and editing steps, and reduced risk of introducing a cultural or linguistic error to market.
It’s your brand. Make sure you set it up to succeed when taking it to new markets.