In the past two blog posts, we explored two ways that successful enterprises can take their brand global: screening creative talent and driving quality in transcreation projects. If both processes are done right, they will go a long way towards helping strengthen your brand’s voice, the subject of the third and final blog post in this series.
But first, let’s start with a definition. Brand voice is an expression of a brand’s unique personality and values. It is a recognizable message associated with your brand that is communicated across all channels to your worldwide target audience. It is a part of your brand identity, which also includes visuals, design and colours, and covers what to say and how to say it.
It would seem logical to keep your brand voice consistent across markets: the success and scalability of your brand is in many ways dependent on the consistency of your message. While language and cultural differences in various target markets can make this difficult to achieve, proper planning and controls can keep your brand voice in check. Here are a few best practices to implement when trying to maintain the power of your brand in foreign markets.
Getting to know your brand
For transcreators to deliver content that is consistent with your brand voice, they first need to gain an appreciation of what that voice is. This is an iterative process that is not achieved overnight. Rather, it is the culmination of ongoing direct collaboration between your internal brand strategists and your language service provider’s transcreation professionals. Plan on holding meetings so that the transcreators can get to know your brand and provide them with brand style guides, creative briefs, glossaries and other relevant reference materials as guidance.
A creative brief describes how the brand voice needs to be represented in the target language. It is focused on the style (including do’s and don’ts) and covers the use of aspirational adjectives (passionate, irreverent, serious, strong, etc.) It also defines the target audience or the ideal reader of the content; for example: we want to appeal to people between 20 and 35 years old with a household income of X that are interested in Y. Creative briefs help transcreators make language and grammar choices to match your brand. In this way, the brand voice can be “translated” not only to its linguistic counterpart, but also—and this is a key element—into its cultural equivalent.
Yet creative briefs alone are not enough for transcreators to fully absorb a brand’s voice. Linguists must be taught the intricacies of your brand that are embedded in your marketing program, like the products and/or services that are offered, marketing foundations like value proposition and the range of content types used. Moreover, transcreation team members must be given feedback on a regular basis through a comprehensive quality control process.
Lastly, strong brands have a brand representative, someone who deeply understands the nuances of your brand and provides vital strategic guidance to help your localization vendor guide the linguists. Examples of brand representatives are a senior marketing writer or designer.
Managing the quality of branded communications
Screening and onboarding creative talent are key components of a successful transcreation program. Yet achieving transcreation excellence requires creative talent to have the tools and guidance that they need to succeed. Here are several important components of the quality control process.
The “pilot” phase
The first few projects in a transcreation program should be treated as a “pilot” period. During this time, your team can review content to ensure that voice, tone and quality are consistent with your brand.
Set up a review team
Good reviewers can come from a number of areas in your organization. Plan to set up a linguistic feedback loop that involves internal in-country stakeholders, community reviewers, external subject matter experts (SMEs) and others who might have a stake in the outcome. Since these stakeholders have different skills, knowledge, experience, perspectives and quality standards, they will all require training on how to review materials and structure their feedback appropriately.
Manage the linguistic quality assurance feedback loops
Linguistic quality assurance (LQA) feedback loops are a structured process that ensures that transcreators understand what “good” and “bad” translated content looks like. These feedback loops generally involve the transcreator, a reviewer and an arbitrator when necessary. An LQA loop consists of the following:
- The reviewer checks portions or an entire piece of content against the source language or brand-specific guidelines to assess whether it is accurate and faithful to the brand.
- The reviewer shares his or her findings with the transcreator. The transcreator reviews and implements the corrections and suggestions.
- The transcreator shares the revised content with the reviewer and answers any questions that the reviewer has.
- In the event of a disagreement, an arbitrator that is familiar with both the project and target language assists in resolving issues and moving the process along.
- The transcreator implements the agreed upon changes.
- The language lead updates both the client’s instructions and reference materials for future projects.
Also, take the time to develop a structured feedback form (scorecard). This form ensures that both the marketing linguists and your reviewers understand what “good” looks like and helps reviewers provide details that illuminate the specific way a translation is “bad.” A good form transforms feedback into actionable and quantifiable issues, so you can monitor improvements over time.
While time-consuming, the LQA process serves a vital role in improving transcreator content. LQA results and suggestions should also be incorporated into style guides to assist with future content iterations.
Capturing the voice of the market
Stakeholder feedback and structured review processes go a long way towards aligning transcreator content with brand voice. Yet the target-market response to your content is the most crucial feedback of all. Market feedback aids in assessing the effectiveness of content and can either confirm or challenge internal feedback.
Market feedback is typically gathered by an in-country community or subject matter expert through a questionnaire that collects feedback. It is important to complete market reviews after the first few projects. After that, market assessments should be performed periodically to gauge the effectiveness of local brand advertising.
The evolution of brand voice
Your brand’s voice will likely evolve over time. New products or services, channels, target markets and content types can all lead to stylistic changes. It is important to work with your transcreation vendor to ensure that your message reflects these changes while remaining true to your brand.
Maintaining a strong and consistent brand voice is more important than ever because as soon as content is published, it is visible and available to the vast global online community. Consumers search for new products and services through many different channels. The most successful brands will be those that can convey their message to customers in a way that is both relevant to and consistent with the cultural values of the target market.