By Steve Puttock, Managing Director — London, Schawk

As the world becomes ‘smaller’, brands become bigger with global footprints that cross the globe. Of course, this provides businesses with fantastic opportunities but also, inevitably, it causes headaches! One area for concern comes from the creation of global advertising and marketing campaigns. If a brand wants to keep its brand values intact at every customer touchpoint, it makes sense to create master campaigns centrally and then adapt and deploy them across the regions it operates in. However, this is not a straightforward process by any means.

The key to this activity is to think in terms of ‘transcreation’ rather than translation. In other words, you need to look far beyond changing the words of your campaign into different languages. Instead, you need to understand the campaign’s key messages and then identify how to reinvent, or ‘transcreate’, these to take into account the nuances of the language and culture of each country/region you are reaching out to. This is imperative if you want to ensure your message connects with your target audience — whilst still keeping the integrity of the master campaign.

At Schawk we work with a number of major international organisations, helping them to maximise the relevance and impact of international campaigns and below are our top tips in terms of what we have found to be crucial to success:

If you can, work with a centralised transcreation specialist that mirrors your global footprint, but also has a local network of knowledge and implementers in each country you operate in. By working with one supplier in this way you can ensure that the look and feel of brand collateral remains consistent as ad campaigns are adapted, while the local knowledge ensures that you get insight into what needs to be changed — or not.

Use copywriters rather than translators. Translators will get the language right word for word, but you need a multilingual copywriter to understand how to get the message across in the right way.

Think about whether you need to adapt the executional styling of your campaign; consider how relevant the imagery you are using is for each country — so, for example, for food brands, show them served in a way that would be recognisable locally; consider other cultural variations such as the kind of clothing people wear, the colour of people’s skin and the amount of flesh it is acceptable to show.

Ensure that your transcreation process includes local validation to make certain that the campaign does work and that there are no nasty surprises lurking. Ask KFC - rumour has it that in China the slogan "finger-lickin' good" was understood to mean "eat your fingers off!" Another top tip when checking campaigns is to ‘back translate’ rather than proofread — helping assess message rather than the words themselves.

Make sure that you understand the different legal requirements in each country — data protection, laws relating to prize draws and promotions through to industry regulations on what is deemed fair and proper vary hugely from region to region and can be a minefield.

With TV advertising, consideration needs to be given regarding the style of voice-overs. Firstly, think about the kind of dialect or accent that would work best in each market. Then also consider aspects such as whether a male or female voice may be more appropriate depending on the product as this can also vary from country to country.
Think in terms of minutiae. For instance, also with TV advertising, make sure that any imagery in the background features the correct language and that your product packaging is the right version!

Transcreation is a complex process and does take effort. However, in our experience it is one hundred percent worth it. Marketing and advertising are all about communication — and if a consumer doesn’t feel that you are talking directly to them, in a relevant and appropriate way, they are unlikely to listen. ‘Lost in Translation’ is an excellent film, but definitely not a great business strategy.