Anyone who has ever tried to learn another language will intuitively grasp the following insight: not all languages are created equal. Each comes with its own set of peculiarities. Even within a given language, regional expressions and dialects abound. Despite the illusion of homogeneity sometimes suggested by our hyperconnected society, we live in a world that is wonderfully rich with regional custom, practices, and speech.
What does this mean for marketers running ad campaigns beyond regional or national borders targeting speakers of multiple different languages, you ask? It is not only words that change, but the concepts, ways of thinking, daily lives, browsing and purchasing habits, sense of humour, and more.
Are you experiencing poor performances in some languages or regions within a campaign that is otherwise running very smoothly? Don’t just translate your campaign, localise it.
The problem with translation
There is, of course, nothing wrong with a good translation—it is a necessary element of any successful campaign that is deployed in multiple languages. When a translator passes meaning from one language to another, he or she will be confronted with words, sentences, and concepts that need qualification, explanation, or reformulation. A good translator is able to bridge the divide between distinct languages and their unique worlds. The problem that will plague even the best translation in marketing, however, is located at the structural level of the campaign.
Simply put, a translation may not be enough. Different audiences have different needs and desires. A sophisticated understanding of what these are is a big advantage if you want to hit your targets and insure optimal ROI. A campaign translation ought to be flexible enough to learn from and avoid the roadblocks and pitfalls encountered during its adaptation to a new language and market. Being able to find the right words is an important skill, but if the idea behind the words makes little or no sense to your audience, then success will always be bitter-sweet.