Most brands know that building a successful, cohesive, multi-channel marketing campaign requires a tight relationship with the creative team, a strong creative brief, and multiple rounds of client feedback. Yet, somehow, people expect to hand the carefully-crafted campaign off to the translators and get equally effective collateral in their target markets — despite vast differences in language, culture, demographics, and style. The result is a muddy global brand. How can you manage the process and save your voice?
Even when you have bilingual resources with the right level of marketing specialization for the project, you still need to ensure your multilingual marketing team understands your brand voice, tone, and style well enough to serve as your in-market representatives.
“Managing the creative process” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not: the ticket is nurturing effective feedback for creative talent to embrace. These best practices should help you build the best transcreation and marketing translation processes for your global marketing program.
1. Brand deep dive
No one can fully absorb a brand just by reading a style guide. Plan for a series of deep-dive conversations between your brand strategist and the partner’s creative wordsmith: a seasoned, detail-oriented marketing specialist who can absorb and replicate your voice in order to train the team.
2. Document voice and tone
The partner’s creative wordsmith should use the output of the deep dive, along with your style guide, to work with in-country bilingual marketers. Together, they should document the brand voice and tone for each target market, complete with thought-provoking “do” and “don’t” examples.
3. Client feedback
Your in-country stakeholders, brand strategist, and localization managers should collaborate to answer questions and provide clear and timely structured feedback to the partner’s team. Confusing feedback will only create setbacks.
4. Recruit team
People who write for your brand should have the appropriate level of marketing experience for the content types. The team should comprise in-country bilingual talent specializing in content creation, demonstrating passion for your brand, an ability to learn and improve, and availability to make long-term commitments to your program.
5. Candidate testing and signoff
You’re looking for long-term relationships with people who can carry your voice into new markets. Screen candidates not only for content creation in your brand voice, but also for their thoughtful questions and ability to incorporate your feedback. Make sure your in-country stakeholders and localization team align to provide clear candidate feedback and direction as part of the screening process.
In addition to the style guide, terminology and client feedback, the new team should work directly with client stakeholders to understand the products, the target audiences, and the content types. Organizing a kick-off or summit is an important step, together with a plan for sustained collaboration.
Here’s where an example might help. Consider this banner ad from Houzz, a US-based platform for home remodeling and design, targeting prospective advertisers.
During the immersion phase, the German marketing linguists likely provided feedback to the client stakeholders that home ownership in Germany is quite low. A straight translation would drastically under-represent the size of the market opportunity for home professionals seeking to get in front of people who want to spiff up their homes.
That’s no doubt why Houzz rewrote the ad to say, “Why move in at Houzz?” A nice, catchy double-entendre succinctly appeals to the target audience, even though it’s not quite the same as the original.
Immersion is the opportunity for your global creative talent to raise questions, float ideas, and align on your priorities with real-world examples.
7. Initial projects
The first few projects should be considered the “pilot” phase: the new team can apply their knowledge, while your team thoroughly reviews voice, tone, and overall quality. Again, specific and timely feedback is a must.
8. Voice of the market
Following your internal reviews, the first projects need market feedback — most likely from a community or a subject matter expert (SME) via a structured feedback form. Community feedback will help validate or challenge your stakeholder assumptions. Forms help reviewers articulate specific issues clearly; they also help you quantify issues to monitor improvement over time.
9. Maintaining accuracy
Creative adaptation must not shift the meaning. This is especially important for articles that deal with guidelines, policies, billing and other sensitive areas. Proposed workflows should include steps that safeguard the integrity of the message.
10. Ongoing feedback
Expect your brand voice to evolve in tandem with new product launches, new content types, and style guide and glossary updates. Keep providing structured feedback and your brand will keep pace — and you’ll also be able to monitor improvements.
Transcreation is like hiring an ad agency: it’s a long-term relationship that demands deep client involvement early on. Screen candidates for their ability to incorporate your feedback. Regular checkpoints give both teams the opportunity to align and adapt.
Have you ever been surprised by the local version of a branded campaign? Maybe something that should have had a closer review with the brand stakeholders? Please share!