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3 AUGUST 2017

3 facts about marketing translation or why translating marketing texts from one culture to another is so sensitive

Arseny Veber
CEO, Founder of VEBCOM International and VEBCOM Translation
Probably you have seen a lot of creepy brand blunders from all over the world, such as "Nothing sucks like Electrolux", "Schweppes Toilet Water", "Eat your fingers off" and many more.

Is everything grammatically correct? Absolutely! Is it correct from the marketing perspective? Hmmm... not sure.
Of course, today such stories look quite funny and can even create additional positive buzz for these brands. Nevertheless, how come that big companies which are focused on international expansion fail in the translation of their marketing campaigns? Do they intentionally want to make their target audience laugh out loud?

As companies of all sizes go international, brand managers must not forget a simple truth – culture and language of the target market are of critical importance. When working on international marketing campaigns, we study at first our audience. Choosing the type of creative, compiling it, assembling and refining, we use to make our message sound native, appealing and inspirational.

So, what are the challenges which can be faced by marketers when they need their marketing messages properly translated?
FACT 1: Translation should not be verbatim

Since the marketing text should harmonize with the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the target audience, the right style and the right culturally-specific figures of speech should be used when translating and editing the text.

For example, many companies accept a word for word translation of a technical user's manual, as long as it has a clear meaning. Why? Simply because the customers have already bought the product. However, the goal of marketing texts is to improve the effectiveness of product positioning and encourage potential customers to buy the product. In this case, the word for word translation is not acceptable, as it discourages potential customers from buying and finally leads to profit loss.

I personally think that not only communication materials but also technical descriptions and instructions have to be properly adapted to the target market.

FACT 2: Marketing translation takes time and costs more

Normally, the average performance of a skilled translator of technical texts is ca. one page per hour. Marketing texts, in turn, require sometimes from two hours to a full day. For only half of the page.

For example, translation of a slogan can take even several days until the most acceptable, creative and attractive phrase in the target language will be found. Is it fair to apply per word translation rates in this case?

What does the translator think about after a day spent for slogan translation? "I could translate three times more if I only went for the technical translation!"

It should not be a problem if his customer accepts charging per hour and understands the challenges of marketing translation.
FACT 3: Only 5% of translators can do marketing translation

It is necessary to have a deep understanding of what you are translating, to know the industry and how people communicate within this industry. It can be quite problematic for one translator because as a rule, there is a lack of facts and context that he can use as a background.

As a result, most of them just waive the orders for marketing translation and prefer to take the technical translation orders.

That's why, at VEBCOM Translation we think that not only translation but proofreading and editing from native speakers should be the parts of one translation service. It turns marketing translation into a small creative brainstorming session of professional writers.

The key skill of a translator is the ability to understand the source language and the context. The key skill of an editor is the ability to understand the culture of the target audience.
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