International Marketing Translation: the Pitfalls and Possibilities

30 01 2015

If Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken can make expensive, comical international marketing mistakes, with all of the marketing translation these giant corporations have done over decades, then it’s clearly easy. Endless possibilities for mis-communication exist, ranging from inaccurate word choices to the inappropriateness sometimes of saying anything at all.

An example of the latter is when Coca Cola once stamped the bottoms of Coke bottles in some countries with the advice “OPEN OTHER END”.
International Marketing TranslationAn early translation lesson is that colloquialisms and slang must be handled skillfully. Clairol’s curling iron called “Mist Stick” was introduced to the German market without translating or changing the name, not taking into account that “mist” is slang for manure in German. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) opened in China in the 1980s with their traditional slangy slogan “Finger-lickin’ good”, which translates to a catchy “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese.

Different sentence structure in a target language can also turn a phrase the wrong way. Pepsi translated its slogan, “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” into Arabic in such a way that its new marketing translation promised, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”

Even when you think you’re avoiding one trap, you might walk right into a different one. A prominent drug company used pictures rather than phrases for a product they marketed in the United Arab Emirates, specifically in order to avoid language errors. The first picture showed a sick face, the second a person taking the medication, and the third showed a healthy face. But Arab readers read from right to left.

These stories are funny to read about, but not the least bit entertaining to be part of. The answer to the puzzle that is international marketing translation begins not with guessing, hoping, and winging it with Google translate or untrained speakers of the target language, but with professional marketing translators who have lengthy experience providing in-depth, native resources in every country in which you want to introduce your product.

As you work with such a language service provider, keep in mind the following key points for the practice of marketing translations that bring to life exactly what you want to sell.

Make a thorough and intelligent analysis ahead of time of your communication desires, before any of the marketing translation work begins. Many changes may be required, and it’s possible that significant portions of your existing texts and layouts will not be usable.

Think of the process this way: your marketing translation must be generated from your core product concepts and the preferences of your target audience, not from your source-language marketing materials.

In addition to content changes, there are physical and practical considerations such as the way a language moves, the space it requires, the types of symbols, calendars, clocks, and programming codes needed. Pay close attention to all details so that none of them are overlooked – even tiny missteps harm your credibility.

You will want to seek and rely on marketing translation experts with intimate knowledge of your audience and the precise region you are targeting; be wary of superficial or secondhand information, clichés, and erroneous preconceptions. It is not wise to avoid this research by simply generalizing: if your resulting marketing translations are too “global” then they may just be too bland and vague to allow anyone to identify with them.

Be prepared: international marketing translation is tricky and time-consuming, requiring more resources and higher levels of talent and experience than most translation jobs.

A good place to start would be to contact an experienced LSP possessing a global network, such as Skrivanek, for a marketing translation consultation.

  J. McShulskis

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How To Negotiate With People Around The World

22 04 2014

… a very interesting article on:

How To Negotiate With People Around The World.

Many of you may have encountered this in praxis –  business people from different countries tend to do business in a different way.

This Article by Gus Lubin is a very nice description and overview and a lot of truth in it, I find!

You can’t expect negotiations with French to be like negotations with Americans, and the same holds true for cultures around the world.

British linguist Richard D. Lewis charted communication patterns as well as leadership styles and cultural identities in his book, “When Cultures Collide,” now in a 2005 third edition. His organization offers classes in cross-cultural communication for big clients ranging from Unilever to BMW.

In support of cultural studies, he writes: “By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us. A working knowledge of the basic traits of other cultures (as well as our own) will minimize unpleasant surprises (culture shock), give us insights in advance, and enable us to interact successfully with nationalities with whom we previously had difficulty.”

Although cultural generalizations can be overly reductive, Lewis, who speaks ten languages, insists it can be done fairly, writing: “Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm.”

When meeting with French, be prepared for a vigorous logical debate.

When meeting with Americans, expect them to lay all their cards on the table, get upset when there’s a disagreement, and resolve as fast as possible with one or both sides making concessions.

We’ll go over the rest in brief after a selection of communication charts taken with permission from “When Cultures Collide.” Below, conversational range is shown with increasing width, obstacles are marked in gray, and cultural traits are noted as well.

 

 

As you may surmise, “When Cultures Collide” spends relatively little time on today’s emerging markets, which is unfortunate but not surprising since it was originally published in 1996. The book does offer some commentary on Africa, South America, and other places not mentioned here, however, as well as much further commentary on these 25 countries — and we advise anyone interested in international communication to check it out.

Let’s go over the other diagrams in brief,  paraphrasing and quoting from Lewis:

Canadians, compared to Americans, tend to be more low-key and inclined to seek harmony, though they are similarly direct.

English tend to avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style that can be powerful or inefficient.

Germans rely on logic but “tend to amass more evidence and labor their points more than either the British or the French.”

Spanish and Italians “regard their languages as instruments of eloquence and they will go up and down the scale at will, pulling out every stop if need be to achieve greater expressiveness.”

Scandinavians often have entrenched opinions that they have formulated “in the long dark nights,” though they are reasonable conversationalists. Swedes often have the most wide-ranging discussions, Finns tend to value concision, and most Norwegians fall somewhere in between.

Swiss tend to be straightforward and unaggressive negotiators, who obtain concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.

Hungarians value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other.

Bulgarians may take a circuitous approach to negotiations before seeking a mutually beneficial resolution, which will often be screwed up by bureaucracy.

Poles often have a communication style that is “enigmatic, ranging from a matter-of-fact pragmatic style to a wordy, sentimental, romantic approach to any given subject.”

The Dutch are focused on facts and figures but “are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long ‘Dutch’ debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of overanalysis.”

Chinese tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians; however, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere. Hong Kongers negotiate much more briskly to achieve quick results.

Indian English “excels in ambiguity, and such things as truth and appearances are often subject to negotiation.”

Australians tend to have a loose and frank conversational style.

Singaporeans generally take time to build a relationship, after which they can be shrewd negotiators.

Koreans tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth.

Indonesians tend to be very deferential conversationalists, sometimes to the point of ambiguity.

Israelis tend to proceed logically on most issues but emotionally on some.

And that’s how one respected, well-traveled, and highly multilingual linguist sees the world.

 

You find the original article here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/communication-charts-around-the-world-2014-3

Or check out Skrivanek’s Cultural Consulting Service