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Translating the brand voice

News, 07 July 2016

NEW YORK: When reproducing marketing content in another language a good translation is clearly vital, but marketers should aspire to more than simple accuracy since achieving the right tone of voice can significantly boost brand metrics.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Charles Whiteman, SVP/client services at enterprise localisation platform MotionPoint, argued that a commitment to copywriting and brand voice is critical when companies expand into new international markets, particularly online.

"Authentic translations make a measurable, profitable difference for brands," he said.

He cited a recent example from his own experience when a QSR chain serving the US market with websites in both English and Spanish shifted the tone of voice of the Spanish site from 'formal' to 'informal' to match that on the English site.

Spanish-speaking consumers were experiencing a linguistic disconnect, he said, as the stuffy, formal voice on the site "defied expectations – and in fact alienated some customers completely".

Within three months, he reported, the bounce rate had dropped by 2%, customer time on site was up 8%, page views up 11% and the conversion rate for ordering meals increased by 6%.

Even more dramatic shifts resulted when a similar exercise was undertaken for an airline serving South Korea, where translated content on the site was technically accurate but "lacked the verve Koreans expect" from such material.

When the translations of promotional material were tweaked to take account of this, click-throughs grew an average of 15% while checkouts increased by an average of 44%.

Matt Arney, founder and CEO of translation and localisation company TranslateNow, describes the process as "transcreation" and told Forbes that it needs to work on every level of communication, taking into account cultural differences such as imagery, social norms and popular idiom.

He also recommended that, rather than attempting to translate entire websites, marketers consider using a proxy to provide a layer between existing pages and users in global markets.

Data sourced from Huffington Post, Forbes; additional content by Warc staff