Tuesday, 23 February 2016

How to make your brand go further

Every company knows the importance of brand research. It is essential that your branding communicates your company’s values to consumers, resonates with your audience and carries the right associations and attitudes that people will link to your company.

Now imagine that you have found the perfect branding, a slogan that works beautifully and a tone of voice that gives your brand the right identity. More often than not, you will have hired a professional brand consulting team. You are doing great in your home market and are thinking of taking your brand abroad. Should you just go ahead?

The short answer is yes, but plan carefully. Of course you want to be able to harness the huge potential of foreign markets, but just like it takes a lot of work to develop a brand in a market, there should be a significant amount of research carried out before attempting to enter a new market.
The best way of achieving this is through multicultural brand research and transcreation. First of all, it’s important to research things such as the associations that certain words, colours and images may have in the target market, as they may differ greatly from your culture. You want to avoid blunders such as the famous Mitsubishi Pajero.

Secondly, transcreation, a combination of content creation and translation, can help preserve the essence of your brand in the target language, whilst respecting the cultural conventions and expectations, which translates into brand understanding and engagement.

So, in order to make your brand go further, it is best to work with a team who knows the target market well and can provide the necessary brand research information, as well as excellent copy that resonates with your audience and communicates your brand values. One brand that has achieved that beautifully in China is Nike, whose transliterated name “Nai Ke” also carries the meaning of being enduring and persevering, two concepts that perfectly match their products. And they’re doing great in the country, which shows the importance of good market research.

What is International Spanish?

One of my clients, who I have been working with for quite a while, recently decided to stop translating into Spanish for Spain and start translating into International Spanish. Aside from the challenges that this poses for me as a translator, the decision made me think. What is even International Spanish? Does it exist or is it a myth?

The RAE (Real Academia de la Lengua Española), which is the body that regulates the use of Spanish language, certainly doesn’t refer to International Spanish, even if it does differentiate between Castilian Spanish and American Spanish (which encompasses both the Spanish used in the US and in Latin American countries).

But what do people actually mean when they talk about International Spanish? Although the debate keeps raging on, I am of the opinion that International Spanish doesn’t exist, that is has been made up in order to facilitate communication across digital channels, and may I say so, to reduce translation costs in some cases. International Spanish is meant to be a kind of neutral Spanish which all fairly educated Spanish speakers will be able to understand no matter where they come from, and which avoids regional variations and local terminology and grammar which can be confusing, sound unnatural or even be offensive in other Spanish-speaking markets.

I can understand the case for International Spanish. After all, it’s the second most-spoken language in the world. Over 400 million people speak Spanish as a native language in no less than 31 countries, so it would be hard to localise content for each one of those countries. However, it’s precisely because of this wide range of speakers that it is just not possible to adopt one type of Spanish that all speakers will find natural.

Every country is different and so is its culture. Even basic words can change across locales. For instance, “car” is “coche” in Spain, whereas in many Latin American countries it’s “carro”, which in Spain refers to a horse cart. “Bicho” in a bug in Spain, but it can also be a naughty child, whereas it Costa Rica saying someone is a “bicho” at something it means they’re very good at it, and in Puerto Rico it refers to the male sexual organ. Then there is the word “chongo”, which refers to a one-armed person in Chile, a type of hair style in Mexico, a tame horse in Puerto Rico and a lover in Argentina. And that doesn’t even cover grammar, sentence structure and slang/common expressions.

Then there are also stereotypes. For example, in Spain, Latin American accents have long been ridiculed, especially from countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, one reason being the TV programmes from those countries that have been broadcasted in Spain. Although nowadays people are more accepting, there are still a lot of political and immigration issues that shape the way Spaniards think of Latin Americans, and despite the fact that opinions can vary widely and some other accents like Argentinian and Cuban carry more positive stereotypes, most customers in Spain will not react well if you try to market your products to them using a Latin American variant.

So even when trying to use the so-called International Spanish variant and keep the language as neutral as possible, there will be significant differences across the countries and the text will not sound completely natural in any of the markets. Therefore, in order to achieve true engagement and realise your full potential in those markets, it is always best to localise your material for the particular locale you are trying to target. If, understandably, localising for 31 markets seems like an overwhelming prospect, the best solution is to research what markets will be mostly beneficial to you and stick to those. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

5 tips for successful app localisation

I recently read this blog entry by app developer Laura Tallardy http://lauratallardy.com/app-localization-made-easy/ and I was pleased to see, from a developers’ perspective, how important localisation is for the success of the product and in increasing market share. She provides some excellent technical tips that will come in handy for anyone seeking to localise their app. This inspired me to add some additional advice from a localisation provider’s point of view, which I hope you find useful.
  1. Plan for localisation from the beginning
Integrating localisation from the beginning can help avoid some of the costly problems that may arise later if the app has not been designed in a localisation-friendly way. Consider technical issues, like the ability to support all kinds of characters, text directions, and date and currency formats. Also think very carefully about the markets you want to access based on their potential.
  1. Research your target market
Once you have decided the markets you would like to access, you need to research and understand your customers, just like you would in your home country. What makes customers tick in one country might not be the same in another, so when localising some of the most important text, like the store descriptions, make sure to adapt it to the local market taste and expectations. Researching the most popular keywords in each market goes a long way in gaining visibility; Google AdWords and Trends are useful, but another trick is to start typing a word in the App Store search box and wait for suggested search terms. And don’t forget different countries may have different app stores!
  1. Style is key
You have spent weeks or even months writing your app, so why risk ruining it with stilted text, awkward translations or plain unintelligible text? Direct, literal translations hardly ever work. Jokes, common expressions, cultural references and such need to be adapted so they are meaningful to the target audience. Style needs to be carefully considered in order to engage your audience, so it’s important to work with the right professionals, who are familiar with the app market and the style you are trying to portrait.
  1. Bear in mind text expansion
It is very important to consider that languages are not all the same length. Whereas languages like Japanese and Chinese tend to be very short, other languages like French, Spanish and German use more words or longer words to convey the same message, which can take around 20-30% more space than English.
  1. Test, test and test!
Test thoroughly your localised apps in all languages to make sure that everything works, the text is displayed correctly in the right place and there are no issues such as clipped text, incorrect line breaks and untranslated strings, as well as any other errors that might have crept in.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas around the World

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. However, celebrations can vary widely across countries and cultures.

In the UK, celebrations start very early, and many towns switch on their Christmas lights as early as mid-November. Nativity plays and carols are quite popular close to Christmas time, and a lot of houses display a Christmas tree. The main meal is on Christmas Day, which is usually comprised of roast turkey, roast potatoes, vegetables and other trimmings, with Christmas pudding for dessert, and presents are exchanged on the day. On the 26th December, the UK celebrates Boxing Day, which started as the day when collection boxes for the poor kept in churches were opened in order to distribute the contents, but these days is more known as the day when the sales start, which draw huge crowds to the city centre stores.

In Spain, most families eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. This is a big family occasion and it’s not rare to find 20-25 people gathered in one small room. And true to their reputation as food lovers, they have another large meal for lunch on Christmas Day. The traditional dinner varies from region to region, and it can be anything from turkey to lamb or even seafood. Although children receive some presents on Christmas Day due to influence from other cultures, the main festival is on the 6th January, which celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men, who brought presents to baby Jesus. On the night of the 5th January, it’s traditional to leave shoes on windowsills or balconies with small gifts (mainly food) for the Three Wise Men. When the children wake up, they can find their presents hidden under the bed, provided they have behaved well that year; naughty children can get coal as a punishment (which is not real coal, but a sweet shaped like the mineral).

Similarly to Spain, in Italy Christmas is quite a religious affair. A nativity scene is usually displayed in houses, town squares and churches. Father Christmas, or “Babbo Natale”, brings some presents to the children on Christmas Day, but the main celebration is also on the 6th January, day in which Befana, an old woman, flies from house to house on her broomstick bringing presents to children.

In Australia, Christmas takes place at the the beginning of summer, and it’s quite common in coastal towns to gather and sing Christmas carols on the beach in the run-up to the holidays. Houses are decorated with Christmas trees, bunches of Christmas bush (a shrub native to Australia with cream-coloured flowers which later turn red) and lights. Neighbours can get quite competitive about their displays! Once he gets to Australia, Santa gives his reindeer a much needed rest and swaps them for six kangaroos, or “six white boomers”. Barbecues are also very traditional this time of year.

In the Philippines, Christmas is a mixture of Western and native traditions. Whereas they celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas day and have Santa Claus, it is a tradition to have a bamboo pole (“parol”) with a star-shaped lantern on it, which represents the star that the Three Wise Men followed to get to Bethlehem.

In many other European countries, St Nikolaus is accompanied by a scary character, who acts as a warning to naughty and disobedient children and goes by different names, from “Knecht Ruprecht” in Germany to “Le Père Fouettard” in France.

Finally, in the Czech Republic, the traditional Christmas meal consists of fish soup and fried carp with potato salad. Some people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope of seeing the vision of the "golden pig" on the wall, which is said to bring luck. Also, it's a tradition for an unmarried girl to place a cherry twig under water on the 4th December. It if blossoms by Christmas Eve, she will get married within a year.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Localisation: The best way to increase your revenue

Localisation should be one of the top priorities in the marketing strategy of any company who wishes to have international presence. Research has clearly shown that consumers overwhelmingly prefer localised products. Common Sense Advisory, as part of their “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” study, polled 3,002 consumers in 10 countries in their languages and found a substantial preference for the consumer’s mother tongue. This supports other studies which claim that over 50% of Internet users are more likely to buy from a website in their own language, and 75% do not make important purchase decisions unless the information is presented in their own language.

Similarly, several market research studies, like those published by App Annie, clearly show that a large percentage of the Top 20 games and apps for downloads and revenue across the different markets are in the local language.

With over 70% of Internet users not speaking English as their first language, the potential of localisation is huge. Also, if you take into account the costs of localising a product or website compared to the costs of opening a physical store in a different market, it is not difficult to see why localisation is such an effective strategy.

In order to maximise this potential, you should research and understand your customers in the target market, just like you would in your home country. Understand what makes them tick, and prepare your marketing plan accordingly. Also, tailor your messages and images according to the sensitivities and preferences of the target culture. Every culture is different, and what may be common practice in one country could be considered odd or even offensive in another.

For that reason, it is fundamental to have a localisation partner who can not only adapt the text according to the local culture, but also advise you on any possible cultural issues and how best to penetrate that market. It will be an invaluable help in order to achieve success abroad and increase your revenue.


Would you like more information on how to increase your revenue through localisation? Please feel free to get in touch via our website or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

5 tips for creating multilingual content marketing

We all know how important content marketing is. It helps you maintain a relationship with your clients, creates new leads, can help position your brand as knowledgeable and a trusted source for information, and works wonders for SEO, driving more traffic to your website. Just imagine how powerful that would be if implemented across all the markets you wish to target, and how much of a positive impact it would have on your business. Creating a successful content strategy might not easy, but it is definitely worth the investment. Based on our experience, we would like to share with you 5 tips that will help you on your way to developing a multilingual content writing strategy:

1. Provide a clear brief

Provide copywriters with a clear brief that explains the company’s values, brand identity, target audience, tone of voice, etc. so that they can produce content which, whilst resonating with the target market, communicates your brand’s personality and style. Glossaries are also useful to ensure consistency with previous/future material. Don’t forget content marketing is about communicating with your customers, bringing them closer to your brand and building rapport, so it is important to ensure the personality of the brand comes across consistently across all markets.

2. Adapt the text to the target culture

In order to truly appeal to a foreign audience, you need to use the right words and expressions which are common in that particular country and pay attention to local conventions, including puns, wordplay, local references, cultural and social preferences, etc. Similarly, do not forget to keep an eye on social and cultural trends, such as the new music group in the scene, the TV programs people are watching, the latest joke from an ad, or the must have-item of the season. Your local copywriters should be able to advise you on this, and provide feedback on linguistic and cultural issues.

3. Language doesn’t equal culture

Just because two countries speak the same language doesn’t mean you can use the same content in both. Think about how culturally different the US and the UK are. Multilingual content writing goes far beyond translating text into another language, it is about adapting the content to the target culture, as the previous point explained.

4. Multilingual SEO

Whilst the way search engine optimization works has changed greatly, it is more important than ever. Creating content that is relevant for your customers and uses appropriate keywords will improve your ranking in search engine result pages across all the different markets, especially if your competitors aren’t creating multilingual content. Research and use the keywords that are looked for in a particular market, write content relevant to that market and translate all the text that the search engines use to rank your content.

5. Pay attention to the visuals!

When writing content for a particular market, you should always check any accompanying images and symbols. Things that are acceptable in the original market might not be so in any other countries. For instance, displaying a bottle of wine in an ad might not be very popular in countries where alcohol is forbidden. Similarly, a hexagonal red sign would not mean anything in Japan, where the stop sign is a red upside down triangle.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Guidelines for globalization and localization. Is there a need for language restriction?

A few weeks ago, we shared Microsoft’s Guidelines for globalization and localization in our Twitter feed, which you can find here: https://twitter.com/MediaL0C/status/530688809697296384

Whilst I agree with most of the guidelines and recommendations, I have my reservations about others. For instance, some of the recommendations are quite obvious and every developer should take them into account, such as making sure to use the correct formats for numbers and dates, support international units and currencies, and display the fonts correctly. To some people, things like accents can be an annoyance, but they are extremely important. For instance, a little tilde on the “n” is the difference between “I am 3 years old” (Tengo 3 años) y “I have 3 anuses” (Tengo 3 anos) in Spanish.

But even these small, obvious changes need to be applied with caution is some cases. To give you an example, customers would expect to see their currency, with the correct number formats, displayed if they were to buy an app in the store. However, if they were playing a game whose story is based in the US and a character is buying something in a store or a bar, it would seem odd if the currency were anything other than USD. As always, it’s all about the context.

It goes without saying that things like cultural references, images, brand names, etc. need to be thoroughly researched before entering a new market, so I won’t go into much detail about that. You can read more on that here: http://medialoc.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/what-is-culturalisation-and-why-should.html and http://medialoc.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-cultural-dimension-in-games.html.

What struck me about Microsoft’s guidelines is the fact that they recommend avoiding colloquialisms, metaphors and technical jargon. They are indeed the hardest things to translate, but should professional translators not be able to convey them? I believe they should.

Let me explain myself. A lot of the time, this type of language is right at the core of the product and forms its very soul and essence. Let’s say we have a game or an app packed with puns, metaphors and humour. Should we not respect that, and convey them in a way that will be understood by the target audience and have the same effect on them? Why should the product be altered, so that it becomes less humorous and therefore loses part of its appeal? I am all for adapting the product to the target market, but always in a way that recreates the effect and purpose of the original. Jokes cannot be translated literally, instead a professional would find an equivalent in their target language which, in literal terms means something completely different, but appeals to the consumer in the same way the original product did and, in this case, makes them laugh.

The same applies for technical jargon. If a product is targeted to the general public, it should not contain a lot of technical terms in any language. However, if it’s targeted at a very specific segment of users who understand the jargon and use it on a daily basis, then the right translator should be used, who can understand these terms and knows their equivalent in the target language. Scientists wouldn’t expect to read dumbed down texts just because they are translations, they would expect these texts to use the same style and jargon as texts written in their own language.

In my opinion, it’s all about context and effect, recreating the purpose of the original product in the target language; and the more invisible the translator is, the better. Culturalisation implies adapting the product to suit the needs of the target market, so that it’s just as appealing as it was in the original market, not altering the very essence of the product and turn it into something that it is not.