It seems like translating product packaging for export to a different country would be a fairly straightforward process. There might be issues of branding to contend with, but once you’ve got that figured out, the rest is just words on a page (or package), right? Not quite. There are a number of compliance issues you need to be aware of depending on what country you are exporting to, and your type of product. These special regulations are often overlooked by retailers, and can result in a lot of extra fees and costs if not followed properly. Here are a few special translation requirements to be aware of:
Special Requirements for Countries
Different countries have different requirements for labeling and translation, including a few you might not expect. Canada, for instance, requires certain information to be listed in both English and French. And if you’re selling your products in Quebec, the regulations are even stricter for bilingual labeling.
Mexico requires all labels on all packaging to be provided in Spanish. This isn’t too surprising, but it’s something your company may accidentally overlook when exporting across the border. And another often overlooked requirement: all labels and packaging in both Mexico and Canada must use the Metric system in their measurements. Do you export a product whose weight is listed in pounds and ounces? Be sure to translate it to grams and kilograms before sending it across either border.
If you’re selling food, it’s very important to properly label all ingredients, nutritional information, etc. What does that entail? Well, it depends on what market you’re selling in. At the end of last year, the European Union enacted strict legislation regarding how food is labeled. This means that when exporting food products to be sold in Europe, you need to make sure they comply with those regulations. It also means that all of these new labels need to be properly translated.
Nutritional Information Requirements
Previously, providing specific nutritional values for foods was completely voluntary in Europe. Some companies added it for customer convenience, whereas others simply labeled foods as healthy or unhealthy, using the symbol of red and green traffic lights. And plenty of food products had no nutritional labels at all.
However, as of December 2014, the EU requires that a variety of nutritional facts, including fat and salt content, carbohydrates, and more, be displayed on all pre-packaged foods in order to keep consumers better informed and combat rising obesity levels.
Volume and Timeliness
In the retail industry, there’s a large amount of material that must be translated. Consider the variety of content your company publishes: product packaging, catalogs, coupons, emails, and blogs. Plus, if you have brick and mortar stores, there are signs, employee training materials, POS materials, and much more.
In addition, there is a very quick turnaround time. Catalogs and coupons are time-sensitive, and must be fully translated and ready to distribute in time for customers to take advantage of them. Blogs and emails may be released weekly, or even more frequently. Even product packaging and label translation is usually the last step before going to print, and by then, time is of the essence! All of these materials must be translated quickly and accurately, not only for your customers to understand, but so they will ultimately want to buy your products.
Social media and content marketing are two important channels that have reinvented the way brands think about international marketing. Thanks to the rise of social and content marketing, businesses can now easily interact with prospects all over the world.
The development of the social platform has been an overwhelmingly positive one for companies looking to take their brand global, but it has also created a lot of competition. Here are some points to keep in mind for brands and agencies that are looking to use social media to successfully connect to customers around the world.
Pay attention to cultural sensitivities in your global content
Social media is a place where communication is usually informal: people use a lot of slang, expressions, and abbreviations to interact with each other. The amount of this informal communication you choose to engage in will depend on your brand's culture and specific goals for social media, but remember that even if you don't plan on using it, other people will: your social media content will always be viewed through this lens.
A good example of how not understanding slang can go very wrong for globalizing brands is Puffs, a line of facial tissues produced by Procter & Gamble. Upon entering the German market, Puffs quite embarrassingly learned that in Germany, the word "puff" is a slang term for a “house of ill repute”.
Properly reuse videos and graphic content
Where most of your written marketing materials will need full translation when you take your brand international, you might be able to use some of the existing graphics and videos currently used in your home market with only minor adjustments. For video content, you might consider using subtitles as a relatively low-cost way to adapt your marketing materials to social media.
Although your mind might be on the tremendous growth that could result from this expansion, you also need to remember there are several key steps that must be addressed for successful translation:
These might seem like common sense requirements to some, but you would be surprised how many companies, even major brands, have flubbed these steps.
What happens if you make a mistake involving one of these concepts? Unfortunately, we don't need to imagine the consequences: there are plenty of real life examples of embarrassing, offensive international marketing failures that wise marketers can learn from.
Translations Gone Wrong: How NOT to Localize Your Brand
Many companies have experienced challenges localizing their marketing materials, but few have failed as spectacularly as these major brands. The missteps of these companies should provide some understanding of why your business needs professional translation help.
Coors: Turn it Loose!
In the 1980s, the Coors beer company was promoting an advertising campaign centered on a “Beerwolf” character. The slogan that went along with the Beerwolf character was "Turn it Loose!" Unfortunately, someone at Coors didn't do their homework on proper translations: in Spanish, the ad campaign was perceived as "suffer from diarrhea." Not the most appealing way to promote a refreshing beverage.
The idea of international marketing brings about some tremendous challenges for agencies that serve global brands. Finding a way to connect a product or service with an international market is complex enough, but it can also be a challenge to manage the process of international marketing.
These challenges are issues that global agencies frequently face. Luckily, there are ways these obstacles can be overcome to help a brand successfully reach more people in more places.
Companies that are looking to succeed in the new age of international marketing must be sure they are paying attention to how communications are changing. There are several factors that are having a huge impact on today's international marketers.
The Social Media Boom
In a relatively short amount of time, social media has exploded as a dominant communication channel in human culture. At the end of 2009, Facebook had 360 million monthly active users. Over the next four years, Facebook's user base more than tripled. The popular social media network reached 1.2 billion active users per month in 2013.
Social media has become one of the world's major international marketing trends because it has allowed brands to reach people in almost any location. Users can instantly connect to a brand that is on the other side of the world. Many major brands have leveraged this connectivity as a way to market to people in other parts of the world.
The luxury fashion brand Burberry, for example, had a relatively insignificant presence in China as recently as 2010. By launching a social media presence on Sina Weibo, one of China's top social networks, and continuously interacting with customers and exposing them to their brand, Burberry was able to become the number one selling fashion brand on several of China's top retail e-Commerce websites.
1. Begin with Clean, Final Source Language Copy
Every time you change your source content during localization, it has a ripple effect on the versions in other languages. It’s important to start by adjusting your source copy so that it is structured in a way that is conducive to localization. Make sure the content is relevant and understandable for the target cultures. You can also create effective metadata, which improves organization and helps the localization team better understand the content.
It is no secret that taking your business global involves several challenges. It takes time and some consistent effort to successfully establish your operation overseas. However, it is important you do not let some of the misconceptions about globalization prevent you from expanding. These common myths about globalization can all be debunked fairly easily.
I don’t have the capital to invest in globalization
While it is true there will be some cost to exploring overseas markets, it may not be as expensive as you think. There are plenty of organizations that specialize in connecting businesses to likely partners on an international level. Some of these trade organizations will help pay for travel costs or will get you into meetings with critical partners in the country you wish to operate in, which will reduce your marketing and expansion costs.