Selling globally? Follow these best practices for product translation

By Acclaro
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Selling globally? Follow these best practices for product translation

One of the best ways to connect with global customers is to offer your product or service in their preferred language. Without skillfully translated and localized packaging and labeling, you might actually confuse your local customers.

Before you dedicate resources to expanding your business internationally, take some time to set up your product translation for success. These four best practices can help you launch a product that is visually appealing, legally compliant, culturally relevant and ultimately resonates with your target market.

1. Use approachable, familiar packaging

To market your product and drive sales in a new market, translating your packaging and product descriptions is a must. Customers both consciously and subconsciously make their minds up about a product by its appearance — first impressions count for a lot.

Confusing or unclear packaging can undermine your substantial efforts to market your products. Packaging that feels approachable, familiar and appealing to local shoppers tend to be more successful.

2. Adapt your content to your local audience

Effective translation of a product’s packaging may require transcreation or creative adaptation rather than direct translation. Skilled linguists alter the language to preserve the intent and “feeling” of the original copy. Then, the linguist rewrites it in a way that engages the target market, thanks to their local knowledge.

An effective translation can also differ by region, not only by language. Take Mexico and Spain — while both are Spanish-speaking, the culture in Mexico is starkly different from the culture in Spain.

The linguist can also identify whether any content translations might spark copyright issues in the new market. At times, a translated text may be too similar to copyright-protected content used by an existing product or company.

3. Localize product names and imagery

Brand and product names, even ones that are “made up” in their original language, can mean something different in another language. At worst, poorly translated product names and packaging will result in accidentally embarrassing, funny or nonsensical content. At best, your marketing efforts will fall flat.

Product translation case study: the stork vs the peach

For example, when Procter & Gamble (P&G) began selling Pampers diapers in Japan, they used their original imagery. After all, the stork carrying a baby on their packaging had been a huge success in North America. But in Japan, the response was underwhelming. Japanese customers found the stork cute, but confusing. See, in Japanese culture, a giant peach, not a stork, brings babies. With a more strategic approach, P&G could have chosen an image that resonated with Japanese culture. And by connecting with their target buyer, they could have avoided a costly stumble in their expansion into Japan.

4. Use clear, compliant labeling

Product labeling requirements vary widely from country to country. If you are selling a food product, for example, you’ll need to comply with specific local regulations. Some regions require disclosing nutritional information, ingredients like allergens or processes like radiation or genetic crop modification (GMO).

Some markets also require companies to display the place of origin for the product and all components. Many countries use standardized symbols and designations to indicate compliance with these various requirements.

An experienced translation team with local knowledge makes your product’s packaging clear and easy to understand. They’ll also carefully vet wording, imagery and symbols to make sure that your product and packaging comply with local laws.

In addition to regulatory issues, translating and localizing your product’s labeling involves converting items like:

  • Converting measuring units (e.g., pounds to kilos or gallons to liters)
  • Localizing date and time formats (e.g., ordering the day before the month or using a 24-hour clock designation)
  • Changing a signature font to improve readability
  • Making other changes to improve clarity

Drive cross-cultural brand success 

For your product to resonate with your global customers, the language and imagery that you use is key. Translating and localizing your product’s content requires a firm understanding of your target market’s culture, language and laws. To learn more about how to prepare for global growth, download our top 10 tips for cross-cultural brand success.

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