According to Gordon Husbands, vice president of sales & marketing at Wordbank and an active member of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), translation is just the tip of the iceberg when rolling out marketing campaigns globally. I chatted with Gordon via Skype at his home in Andalucía, Spain, to learn about globalization of email and digital marketing in general. In our conversation, Gordon explained to me that transcreation is the process of rendering creative ideas so they resonate in other idioms and cultures. Another key process is localization -- in essence, correcting the content so that it conforms to common protocols, cultural practices, audience expectations and legal requirements in different countries.
Setting up the technical platform
A company that plans to market multinationally needs to start at the template level of all digital communications in order to allow for differences in languages. The HTML or content management system has to be able to render the required character sets - such as Greek, Turkish, Latvian, Russian, the many idioms of Chinese, and Indian languages - and to allow room in the templates for expansion. English is a wonderfully succinct language, and its grammar permits certain bending of the rules while still communicating clearly. However, Gordon warns that you cannot get away with this in other languages. Sentences must be structured more formally, lest you offend the readers, and in languages like Russian or German, the content size may grow threefold once translated. In a Flash demo or a video where there is a voice-over timed to the action, the sheer length of the translated script is a consideration that must be accounted for technically in the earliest stages of development.
Preparing the message for local audiences
For email marketers, it's not enough to translate your email. Clearly you need to have an appropriately translated landing page and Web site for readers to click through to; any support materials, such as white papers, must be professionally translated and localized, too.
Localization of your messaging will take into account differences in currencies and the various uses of decimals or commas in numbers, which differ from American usage; and ensuring that references common to one country are contextualized meaningfully for another culture. Photography is an important facet - will consumers in South America relate to the blonde, blue-eyed models in your U.S. advertising? (The answer is No.)
Salutations in emails are an especially tricky issue. In the U.S., you can use first names almost always. "Hi, John," doesn't offend many on our shores. But take care in Germany or Italy. Formal titles are of supreme importance in many countries, so you had better capture those with your acquisition efforts. It's "Herr Direktor," or "Signore Professore" to you!
In surveys delivered by email, it's unlikely that you can ask the same rather personal questions that we often see in the US: age, income level, home address - many other nationals simply won't answer.
Gordon's advice to U.S. marketers in a global economy is: Don't think like an American. Lose your domestic mindset. Learn to think like a Belgian, or an Argentinean, or a Japanese, if you intend to market to those audiences.
My advice is to hire experts and let them guide you through every stage of campaign development and rollout. Better to spend a small sum at the beginning than thousands putting it right in 20 languages later. Let's face it, you don't want this to happen to you:
Sign on Laundromat in Utsunomiya, Japan: I have feelings towards saying that I "Wash" it and pray a visitor for it being loved healed air space such as a fragrance of a lavender by the making of, a visitor. (From engrish.com)