Businesses today are global by nature. We live in a time where customers around the world can find companies anytime, anywhere in a matter of seconds via the Internet. If you have a corporate website, you’re reaching people in other countries without even trying. What’s more, the proliferation of mobile devices across the globe has made Internet access possible for persons and geographies that were previously unconnected, and these customers are rapidly adding to the online pool.
The need to engage multicultural customers with high-quality multilingual content is paramount to business growth — and this holds true even if you aren’t stepping outside of your geographic borders. For example, the Hispanic community holds tremendous purchasing power in the US. Failure to communicate with this demographic using native language content leads to significant missed opportunities.
All marketers know that the best messages are those that resonate with their intended audiences, but reaching multilingual customers in different markets isn’t as easy as translating native language content verbatim. Every culture is different. What works for one demographic might not work for the rest — even within countries that speak the same language, as their behaviors, social mores and traditions will vary.
Simple translation of content is not enough to capture and retain new customers, build brand loyalty and increase the bottom line. For content to be regarded as native, familiar and high quality, it must fully reflect the way people live, act and speak. And this can only be achieved when localization and transcreation are used in conjunction with translation.
A Look at the 'Big 3'
Your corporate content conveys essential messages about your business, from who you are in the marketplace, to the products and services you offer. Poorly translated content can damage your brand and cost you customers. If you’re making the commitment to go global with multilingual websites, mobile apps and other digital assets, incorporating translation, localization and transcreation into your content strategy will yield the best results.
Global content delivery is about getting the right message in front of the right people in the right language. Employing the best mix of the big three will help you accomplish this goal, while differentiating your business from the competition.
Here’s a look at how each differs and how, together, they comprise the keys to globalization:
Translation is the transformation of text from one language to another. So the sentence, “The sky is blue,” would be translated from English directly into the target language — German, for example. However, it’s not about translating each word individually, but rather looking at the complete message and faithfully translating it appropriately to retain its intended meaning.
Localization is taking that translated text and adding cultural nuance. It’s ensuring content and images are culturally relevant to target audiences by considering things like date and time formats (e.g., July 4, 1776 versus 4 July 1776), units of measure (e.g., miles versus kilometers), currency formats and products sold in a geographic area. It’s critical for a brand to sound local and connect to local trends. You cannot just take a message that is successful in one country and assume it will resonate in another.
Transcreation involves adapting and creating entirely new content for the right cultural fit. For example, when KFC expanded to China in the 1980s, its slogan “finger-lickin' good” was translated to “eat your fingers off” — not exactly the meaning KFC wanted to convey.
Transcreation leverages multilingual copy writers — not just translators — who are briefed on what the company is trying to accomplish, the action they’re trying to obtain, the purpose of the content and how the content appears in the company’s native language. They then create new content based on the target demographic, language or country. Because transcreation can be expensive, it’s often reserved for content that reflects brand image or is viewed frequently, like taglines, headers, SEO keywords and advertisements.
Going Global with High-Quality Multilingual Content
Incorporating translation, localization and transcreation into your content strategy will help you yield the most ROI as you expand globally and engage with customers around the world. Leveraging human translation for high-quality content alongside translation management technology that removes the complexity, time and cost from the translation process, will enable you to go global faster, more efficiently and more cost-effectively than ever before.
Title image by Gabriel Rojas Hruska
Title image by Gabriel Rojas Hruska