This is a guest post from Aniello Attianese from Language Reach.
The world of business is changing rapidly. A trend towards globalisation and expanding businesses abroad, especially with the recent growth of internet, is something that I, working for a professional translation agency, personally see rather clearly. A lot of the businesses from every corner of the world, even small and medium sized, see a truly great opportunity in approaching new international customers and exploring new markets. Many business owners who require our professional translation services however do not realise that translating word for word sometimes simply isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the whole answer, especially when working on marketing material, such as websites; this is where localisation comes into play.
Companies and businesses around the world now spend great portions of their budgets each year for marketing efforts; paying close attention to crafting the perfect message, choosing the right colours or even the right font. But what if they were only to discover, that their perfect marketing material which worked flawlessly in one country, causes offence in another? Having marketing material which is culturally inappropriate will certainly cause more damage than good.
In simple words, localisation amends and adopts content, such as websites or brochures, in order for it to be suitable within a specific market by removing any local sensitivities. Global companies such as Apple or McDonald’s have values and ideas which they like to communicate to consumers across the world, without causing any misunderstandings within any country specific market. This is the reason each of their campaigns is not only very carefully translated, but also localised to suit their specific foreign target market.
American Airlines on the other hand are a perfect example of a company who decided not to trouble with localisation, and only to translate their marketing material word-for-word. After introducing their new stylish leather seats on the planes, AA came up with a slogan which in America worked perfectly fine: “Fly in leather”. Not carefully localised for the Mexican market however, the message caused the operator to blush slightly as “Fly naked” wasn’t very appealing to the Spanish speaking customers…The lack of localisation in the above example is pretty obvious, and not only caused the airline to embarrassment but also to money loses.
Words however aren’t the only thing which can be a cause for concern if marketing material wasn’t carefully localised. Another great example would be the use of colours. Did you know, that in China the colour white is associated with death? Now, you wouldn’t want your products or services to be associated with such, would you?
Going back to McDonald’s example, you’ll be able to see good, if not great, use of localisation services. The fast food chain restaurant not only localised all of their marketing messages, but they also went a step further and localised their menus, which are perfectly localised for each of their markets. And so in New Zealand for example you will be able to order a Kiwi Burger while McDonald’s India offers chicken Maharaja!
Giving that both U.S and Sweden are rather specific markets, with different cultures, values and ideas, localising marketing material for the Swedish audience should really be a priority for any U.S business thinking of approaching the Swedish consumers. Taking into the account any local sensitivities such as religious, political or cultural differences can have a significant impact on the success of your brand in a foreign market, and although localisation simply cannot guarantee an instant success, the lack of it can guarantee instant failure.
Aniello Attianese comes from Pagani, Italy. He speaks Italian, French and German fluently and has just started learning Swedish. He currently works for Language Reach and Translation Services 24 as a translator and a project manager. In his spare time he enjoys travelling and good music as much as he enjoys learning languages.