Why brands are getting lost in translation

There are many examples where a global message, great as it is, just doesn’t work across many international markets. At best it doesn’t make sense, at worst it’s offensive.  Help is at hand. We ensure your brand message works as intended in every market. 

When it comes to language, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. First of all – what kind of material needs translating? Each type of project is different – some need straight translation, some need transcreation, some need creative adaptation, some need copywriting, and some require a mix. The priority should be finding the right linguists with the skills to understand your brand and accurately convey its marketing messages to local audiences. 



Used when the primary aim of the source text is to inform, with no creative or emotional dimension to it. It’s not a word-for-word transposition, but the target language text should closely resemble the meaning and intention of the source language text.

Good for: Technical, informational or legal copy that deals with facts.



Marketing content that aims to convince or provoke an emotion in the target audience benefits from transcreation. Writers transcreating into a target language must consider the target audience’s cultural and marketing context.

Good for: Advertising and marketing creative copy, headlines and attention-grabbing phrases.



A service used to create advertising or marketing copy from scratch based on a creative brief and without any source. The copy should persuade a target audience to buy a product – meaning the tone and content can differ between markets. 

Good for: Creating strong marketing copy in the native language.


Expert linguists understand where to start 

A failure to understand the source text is one of the main causes of poorly translated copy. So while the source text is clear to you, it might be ambiguous to others. Remember that everything is open to interpretation, so come up with a brief that includes a lot of background information to fill in any potential knowledge gaps.


Take time to explain the intention behind the original copy and protect anything that must be retained in the translated copy. In addition, make the target local market and audience explicitly clear to the linguist. Finally, always get your translated text checked by a proofreader or editor to eliminate any misreading of the source text.


Linguists are masters of the target language  

Aphorisms to idioms, proverbs to puns – linguists know their target language inside out. That said, all linguists have their areas of expertise. Technical experts can translate complex documents but might do a clumsy job of translating a holiday website. The risk of assigning your copy to just any translator is that, if they are not experts in a brand’s particular field, they might deliver a word-for-word translation or only convey the superficial meaning of the text. 


Expert linguists have incredible cultural insights

Each medium – whether it’s a brochure, a website or a social media post – has a specific tone of voice and requires the right translation approach to ensure it sounds right in the target market. If you need to translate creative content, you might need transcreation rather than translation. Transcreation refers to the localisation of communications using the appropriate consumer language and cultural input. It’s the process of adapting a message from one language to another while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. 


To help a linguists get under the skin of a global campaign that needs to be localised, send a detailed brief that clarifies the meaning of complex source texts – explaining things like colloquial expressions, humour and double meanings. It’s also useful to share visual files so they can fully understand the message before they adapt it for their market.


Linguists are committed to consistency 

A good linguist assures consistency is maintained across creative components by recording words and phrases in a glossary and compiling a style guide that keeps track of correct spelling and capitalisations. For this reason, it makes sense to work with the same linguistic team for the duration of a campaign.

The number of words will inevitably vary when translating from one language to another. But you can design your assets to allow for differences and variations in character width and character line height. For instance, Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters, among others, are wider and longer in comparison to Latin ones. Keeping consistency front of mind, remember that translators can work to strict word counts depending on where the copy will appear. For example, search engines have very defined character restrictions. 


Linguists work well alongside other teams

Translation, transcreation, creative adaptation and copywriting projects usually involve many stakeholders, all based in various countries. The details of the task, the timings and the requirements will vary depending on the project, but with good planning ­– and by prioritising the areas below – the finished product should resonate with local audiences wherever it appears while meeting timelines and keeping within budgets. 


Teamwork and collaboration 

Keeping everyone in the loop, helping each other out and making sure the briefs are spot on results in a happy team. Translators work closely with members of the linguistic team, local market team and project coordinators to ensure consistency, quality and a clear message across all components. 


Effective communication

When coordinating a translation project, the information goes forwards and backwards between the many people involved. If translators don’t help keep the lines of communication open, the project might run into misunderstandings. Keep everyone on track with a clear brief that outlines the aims and objectives of the project.


Planning and processes

The task here is to coordinate resources, predict costs and foresee potential risks or changes of scope. Part of this involves identifying the right translator for the project and ensuring they understand the scope of work and delivery deadlines.  

All these areas can be combined and efficiently managed when working with a global implementation agency, which will use the same processes and technology to handle translation services together with localisation and production.


If you’d like to talk to us about how to take advantage of trends that will make your global campaigns have an impact wherever they appear, feel free to get in touch.

To find out more about how Freedman could support your global marketing needs, reach out to our New Business Director, Jade, through the button below.