(Do not) Lose yourself – four language strategies for successful global brands

Last Updated July 5, 2018

Going global is a tremendous step in a company’s life. Almost everything needs to be adapted to new reality, or, actually, multiple realities of multiple markets. The truth is a lot of companies are compelled by the vision of being a global brand, and a new culture, a new language and new markets. By doing this, they also lose their identity.

Ladette to Lady is a British TV show in which rude party girls are getting makeovers. And although they learn what it means to be a lady and how to behave in certain social situations, at the end of the road they all seem to look the same and behave in the same way. Everything that singled them out at the beginning is transformed into an acceptable, but also boring form. No, we don’t encourage you to run your campaigns with a goal to be offensive or controversial. We’d like to convince you to step into global markets with your head up high, preserving your brand’s original identity, and adapting it slightly to the expectations of a new audience. And here’s how to do this.

Get to the core

Mission, vision, SWOT analysis – it’s basically a summary of an introduction to any business course  taught at every university or school around the world. However, what they not always teach, but what you, as an entrepreneur, learn on the way, is that company’s values should be clearly stated at the very start. Your core values give meaning to your company’s activities, mark boundaries and set you apart from businesses with the same profile as yours. Your core values should also be timeless and pretty universal to navigate your company through different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Setting them will help you maintain your brand’s identity. All you need is a creative approach while adapting them to new markets. Here are four language strategies that will help you with that.

1. Do not assume

The fact that a certain marketing strategy has great effects in one country doesn’t mean it will be equally successful in another one. Even if you translate your content perfectly, use the same channels and take the same steps, you have to be prepared to fail, because your rule number one should be DO NOT ASSUME.

Translation of content is a must. Obviously, communicating in a new market means communicating in a different language. But translation agencies have something much more valuable to offer, namely localization. It’s a process that goes deeper than translation and involves more than words. It’s more about customs, traditions, beliefs and culture in general. Your whole marketing strategy should be localized, not only translated. It will give you an edge but won’t affect the core values you want to present. Localized content will harmonize with a new market AND with your brand’s identity.

2. Feel the words

You already know localization is something you should go for when it comes to your brand’s global image. But what about creativity? What about these most demanding parts of a marketing strategy, like slogans or blog posts?

Translation and localization will ensure your message is conveyed in another language and is adapted to the culture of a given country or region. Transcreation, on the other hand, will enable your blog content/ slogan /white paper to have exactly same tone, purpose and resonance as intended. It will trigger the same emotions, though the form may have to be changed sometimes.

Transcreators are not translators – they are skilled linguists, culture experts and copywriters. They need to creatively rearrange the copy of the content so it carries the core message, but fits the target market better than the original content. This way you’ll be able to show your brand’s main characteristics but in a way that’s very culturally-conscious.

To read more about transcreation, go here.

3. Social playing

Social media play a huge role in  sales — either through social selling or just image building. You need your social media game to be on point to convince your local audience AND maintain your core image at the same time.

First of all, check which platforms are most popular in the target region. Remember about V-Kontakte, which outranks Facebook in terms of the number of users in Russia. There’s also Qzone – a king of social media in China. As you can see, you can’t always invest in Facebook profiles only – diversify channels, not necessarily your values.

Second, check what kind of content is most engaging in the target region. You still can convey the same message, but try experimenting with formats. Are you sure that textual content that was very popular in Europe will gain the same attention in the USA? Different post formats can still show your brand from the same perspective but will also give you a more accessible look.

Third, show your audience your core values applicable to their territory. Do you position yourself as a socially-conscious brand? Don’t show your audience from Germany an example of your eco initiative that you executed in Brazil. Research the needs of the local community and do something for them instead. Build your image in social media according to your core values but with local sensitivity.

Here’s more on social media localization.

4. What about your people?

Being a global brand is challenging not only in terms of marketing or brand building. It also transforms your mid-sized, monolingual company into a literal tower of Babel. Opening offices overseas and hiring people from different countries and cultures may take its toll. Your job is to safeguard your company’s values and make sure everyone (regardless of their linguistic or cultural background) understands them. You’re trying to form a team out of people who have different values, work ethics, habits, and, first of all, speak different languages. But by showing them what your core value is, you’re giving them a direction to follow.

How to create a corporate language strategy? Read more here.

Binary brands don’t rule the world

The binary code uses numbers 1 or 0 to explain more complex concepts. Something exists or doesn’t, there’s nothing in between. But it doesn’t have to be the case with your brand’s global awareness. You CAN be a global brand with a local touch. Remember about your core values, but instead of completely changing them, give them a new, nice outfit. This way you won’t lose credibility, but you will gain trust of your new customers instead.

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