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The art of localisation

By Josian Phillips, 

Getting your brand communications right for your export market goes beyond translation, it also requires localisation.

Brands at risk

Are you planning to send your brand’s marketing communications to an international audience? Be careful: just one cultural faux pas could put your brand on the line.

Your brand’s global gateway

Translation agencies are the stopover point before the release of marketing communications to global customers – the gateway between brands and their global markets. And it’s here that eagle-eyed translators, proofreaders and project managers may spot a problem. At Brightlines, we recently noticed, in some internal communications artwork supplied to us, a Spanish flag carrying the Franco emblem, outlawed in the country today. We picked it up in time, but American retail giant Target wasn’t so lucky. With no translation agency guarding their gateway, they printed the banned flag on T-shirts and are still counting the cost today.

The wrong visual message can ruin a global reputation

Localisation needs to be carefully considered, ideally at the design concept stage. Colour use and imagery require special attention. If, for example, you are targeting the UAE, the fresh-looking brochure or website depicting deciduous woodland – with the high use of black which is currently working so well for your brand in the UK – may not have quite the same impact in a country of sand dunes, where black is associated with evil and misery. An oil company targeting South America may decide not to use the colour green across page backgrounds to mark out zones on maps. In some cultural areas predominantly consisting of rain forest, the colour green can represent death. Design can be a dangerous territory for your brand.

The finer detail counts

Anyone entering new markets must remember to accommodate the relevant cultural nuances throughout their copy – and to build in whatever it takes to create customer or employee loyalty in those regions. If you’re headed, let’s say, for the Chinese market, you need to mention your Chinese colleagues or partners. And if you’ve used general names in the text, ensure they’ve also been adapted to the cultural destination. The use of numbers too can cause havoc with your marketing, especially across Asia, where the number 4 is deemed terribly bad luck and the number 8, conversely, as obsessively lucky. It’s worth checking out our Cultural tips for business blogs.

Localisation requires advanced planning

If you’re about to communicate overseas, think of your multicultural reach early on – it could save you a whole load of internal politics, time and expense in the long run. In fact, it could keep your brand on top of the world. If you need more information, call a translation agency, one that specialises in global marketing communications such as Brightlines Translation, would be well-placed to assist you.

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