Localizing for Germany: Five Pointers

Category: Translation Services

As detailed in our recent newsletter article, Germany is an attractive option for international growth. Keep these five pointers in mind when localizing for Germany:

1. Tone it down. Lots of marketing for Germany focuses on speed and efficiency, but don’t start making sweeping claims that your product will make life a total breeze. When a company enthusiastically talks up a product, it can easily come across as exaggerated and raise suspicion rather than inspire trust. Stick to the facts in your advertising and marketing materials.

2. Avoid comparisons. Comparative advertising is against the law in Germany, so a campaign where you say product A is better than product B won’t work. Retailers should be wary of statements like “best widget store on the web,” as all superlatives must be backed up with documentation, such as an independent study that proves your claim.

3. Embrace the right forms. All German webpages, regardless of their content, must have an “Impressum” page that lists information about the publisher such as company name, contact information and VAT number.

4. Befriend long words. Text expansion is one of the challenges inherent to German translation, particularly for phone apps, since German words tend to be significantly longer than their English counterparts. Address text expansion early on with your translation agency and you’ll save time and money in the editing phases of your project.

5. Figure out formalities. German has two forms of “you”, the formal Sie and informal Du. The rules for who uses what and when can be tricky, as traditionally the formal form is used to create polite distance or address an elder. Many German businesses have gotten used to the informality of American business culture and are apt to switch to informal usage more quickly with their American partners.

But with websites and apps, it’s important to think early on in the localization process about the tone your company wants to set and whether Sie or Du is a better fit for your brand, target audience and image. Apple, for example, uses the informal Du on websites geared towards a younger audience, but Sie is still standard for most businesses working with German customers, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Ford and SunPower.