Managing Director, Samtext Sweden AB
International companies tend to centralise the production of marketing texts. These texts are usually written in English and then translated into multiple languages afterwards. But when this is done by regular translators, more often than not the result simply does not cut it. A well-written marketing text that has originally been produced in English may actually not sell the company’s product or service in the target country; not even when the translation is error-free, scholarly correct and a perfect rendition of the source text.
Why is this so? It is due to the cultural differences between countries, which are sometimes subtle and other times surprisingly evident. A convincing argument for buying a particular brand of toothpaste in the USA, for example, may have little or no impact on a Swedish audience.
So what is the solution? Well, it certainly isn’t to use a translator who is trained to stick to the source text. The answer is to use a native copywriter who understands the local market and is skilled at adapting the source language. Sometimes, this requires only basic adjustments. Other times, it requires a full rewrite.
A company’s global headquarters usually sends translated texts to local country offices for approval. These texts are often found lacking in their ability to engage the local market. The local office then spends a lot of man-hours editing and sometimes even re-translating the marketing texts from scratch. Even then, if they do not have a local copywriter, the result may still not be as good as it should be.
The importance of quality when it comes to the company’s products and services is fully understood by any management. Successful marketing conveys that quality, is also understood by the management. But not always so with translations! My view is that the company’s standards must not be degraded by poor handling of cultural differences using mediocre translations.
Any marketing text in any language can be rewritten so that it is just as effective in another language and country, if not more so!