3 Marketing translation mistakes you’ll want to avoid

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Of all the areas, we have to say marketing and ads translation is one of our favourites. Watching as a strategy comes together, as the materials get drawn up and released into the world. Then the results rolling in – seeing how our choice of words affects people, inspiring them to take action… whatever that may be. 


But the world of marketing translation is a tricky one. If you’re only just dipping your feet in the water, you’ve got a few things to learn to avoid getting your toes nibbled by piranhas or your foot getting chomped off by a crocodile, so read on to make sure you’ve got the right strategies to fend off all aquatic fiends. 


1. Word-for-word translation


Have you ever driven past a billboard and wanted to reverse back up the motorway because you didn’t believe someone had paid thousands to plaster nonsense up there? We have, and let us tell you that while it caught our attention, it was for all the wrong reasons. 


Sometimes a text is perfect for a brand – it has style, it shares a message, the tone is spot-on… and then it gets translated. Maybe all of the above was kept in the translated ad, but that may just be the problem. 


As we shift between languages and cultures in advertising translations, ideas need to be restructured and reformulated. A statement can be bog-standard in one country. To another, it could be completely alien, or one minor tweak could mean all the difference between saying a standard idiom and sounding like a raving lunatic. Killing two birds with one stone is familiar to you, right? But in Portugal, we kill two rabbits, and it’s not a stone: it’s a (shepherd’s) crook. Sure, each culture understands the main point of what the other is saying, but choose the wrong animal, and an expression goes from natural to bizarre. 


2. Ignoring cultural norms


Cultures, by definition, have inbuilt expectations, rules and norms. For example, colours mean different things to different peoples; a symbol could quickly go from friendly to threatening; images could have entirely different connotations. 


But how do you know? Until things go horribly wrong for you, that is… 


You need a cultural expert for your marketing translation. Someone who grew up in the culture you’re targeting and who speaks the language you need on every level. Someone from a translation advertising agency who can let you know what works and what doesn’t and if you’re about to make a huge, business-ruining faux pas. 


3. Cutting corners 


So many corners can be cut when it comes to the world of marketing translation services – so many that could, ultimately, mean the difference between your brand soaring to success or plummeting into the depths of despair. Relying solely on machine translation? Hiring someone who isn’t specialised or a native speaker of the language you need? Or even opting for simple translation rather than transcreation or localisation…


To take your brand international, you need a service that will do it justice and really speak to your new audience. Let us set you on the right track with your marketing content translation, stopping you from wading in past your depth and losing your footing.