translating brand values

Translating brand values for a global audience

translating brand values

Your brand values – or your client’s if you’re a creative agency working on their behalf – are an integral part of a company’s identity. Memorable brands make us feel or think about them in a certain way. Brand values are the compass not only for how the brand behaves outwardly, but its internal culture and what customers and individuals expect when interacting with the brand.

If you’re in the early stages of expanding into overseas markets, it’s most likely that your brand values will reflect how you operate in the UK. Your values may not appear to be country-specific, but you may find that they don’t resonate as strongly in your target markets as they do here in the UK.

Not all brand values translate easily

Apple is a great example of this. In the US and UK the ‘I’m a Mac I’m a PC’ adverts (from 2006) were well received because they played on the brand’s identity for being fun, playful and hedonistic. However, in Japan, there was a disconnect between these brand values and key Japanese cultural values such as conformity and a strong work ethic.

The key differentiating factors that Apple played with meant that Japanese customers were actually more sympathetic to the PC’s character than the Mac’s. Not the response they were looking for. This shows how important it is to evaluate your brand values and how they translate in your target market before embarking on any translation project.

Global vs local brand values

In the example above, Apple’s brand values backfired because they weren’t a cultural fit for the target market. However, this doesn’t mean to succeed in some markets you must lose part of your brand personality, it just requires a little research and foresight.

We speak a lot about global vs local strategies and there are perks to both sides. Having one set of global facing values would be more cost-effective and easier to ensure consistency across markets. To create these you’d need to research the different cultures in your markets to see what differences there are. Typically, values like benevolence, universalism, achievement, and self-direction translate across borders. Whereas hedonism, power, individuality, etc. may not be as effective in certain regions.

However, you might not want to stop at that, it might be worth thinking more glocal. Having a strong set of global values is a brilliant baseline, but why not create some nuance and localise how you demonstrate those values. After all, brands that localise their content show better engagement with their global audiences and even international employees. A brand’s image doesn’t have to be identical throughout the world. Take a look at this example from the Harvard Business Review. In it, they share how Honda means quality and reliability in the United States, but in Japan, where quality is a given for most cars, Honda represents speed, youth, and energy.

Completely repositioning your values like Honda might not be right for your brand. Instead, you might want to dial up or down specific values to reflect your target market. You might consider having one set of strong global values but different ways to apply them and embody them across markets.

translating brand values

Transcreation for global brand strategy

Whilst translation agencies are not branding experts, we do know a thing or two about different global markets and how translated content works – or doesn’t – in those regions. To start with, a translation agency can carry out linguistic analysis by assigning professional, native-speaking and in-market linguists to evaluate your brand values and marketing collateral, and provide insights into how effectively they translate.

With this information, your creative and marketing teams can adjust original content accordingly. You’ll then need to call on your translation partner to help you with transcreation.

Transcreation combines translation skills with copywriting and localisation: Taking a strapline, key message or creative copy and translating and adapting it so that it works effectively in the target market. Transcreation experts are native language speakers and have in-depth knowledge of the target market, creative copywriting, and your industry.

It’s a tall order to find such highly skilled individuals, but they’re out there, and we know who they are.

For an example of how this works in practice, and for the German speakers amongst you, compare the German version of our corporate video with the UK version here. We assigned several of our German linguists to review our UK video, provide feedback on how effective it would be for German customers and then adapt and translate the script accordingly, considering the recommended style and tone.

Whether you need translation services for a corporate video, product marketing content, or for translating a website – transcreation is an important part of the process.

Consistency of global brand values

Creating global brand values will ensure a consistent brand image and positioning across international market, standardising your brand; it’s the most cost-effective approach and will reduce incidences of brand values not translating in different markets.

This is true when looking at how to manage marketing translations and transcreation too. By centralising translation services by working with one translation partner, they will ensure consistency across your global brand adapting those brand values for each market.

To find out more about transcreation for global markets click here.

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