So, you’re thinking about how to reach a non-English-speaking audience with your marketing. That’s great! But — and we hope we’re not the first to tell you this — you can’t just plug into a translation service, and declare your work done.
Multilingual marketing has to start at the same place as your English-language strategies, and that often means that the whole campaign (design, photography, colors, tone, and words) for your non-English audience will look completely different.
You’re dealing with audiences who have different life experiences, different cultural associations, and different preferences.
Consider the semiotics of the color green. In Western cultures, green is a color of luck, wealth, and even jealousy. In Mexico, it is a color of independence and celebration. However, in Indonesia and China, the color meanings shift to that of death and infidelity.
And that’s just one color possibility. Your customers are smart. They know what good marketing messaging looks like, and they know when they’re getting a second-rate effort, especially when it’s put plainly before them.
Consider a recent yoga marketing campaign targeting mothers. They sent an email with a headline of “MAMASTE,” cutely combining “mama” and “namaste.” However, Spanish speakers receiving that email read, at best, “YOU SUCKED” or, in some regions, an email featuring vulgar slang.
If your brand comes across as inauthentic or lazy (or even just a joke), you aren’t building loyalty. You’re signaling that you want that audience’s time and money, but they are not worth your investment to earn it.
To do it right, start with a basic understanding of the audience culture you’re speaking to. Who is traditionally the decision-maker in the family? Does their sense of community inform their brand loyalty? What symbols, colors, stereotypes, cliches etc., exist that you’ll need to have context for?
Then, work with a native speaker or a professional service or agency that can provide an accurate and nuanced translation of what you’re trying to say. Let them guide the authenticity of your message. Then there’s the matter of English/Spanish (especially when it comes to slang). We can tell you that’s tricky, even when working with a native speaker. You run the risk of sounding forced, cheesy, or missing the mark completely since one person can use Spanglish in a completely different way than the next.
Once you’ve got the strategy, message and design, you know what comes next: test, test, test.