Being Global and Lost in Translation

Being Global and Lost in Translation Blog

Going global is a more attractive opportunity than ever for both big and small companies thanks to technology, but weak translations and a failure to adapt to local markets can really risk a customer’s experience of your brand.

Trading globally is easier than ever before with digital channels and almost non-existent international trading barriers. But for all this,, trading internationally doesn’t come without challenges for a marketing department. Marketing abroad is tricky and a failure to communicate properly is not giving the right impression


When Parker pens launched in Mexico it ran an advert that was supposed to say “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. However, the brand’s translation wrongly used the Spanish word ‘embarazar’, which means ‘impregnate’ rather than ‘embarrass’ – ironic, right?

Obviously, check your copy! But things like translating your FAQ pages and other content to take into account cultural differences and consumer behaviours in the local market is a simple way of fitting in.

The online experience

Translation isn’t just about words. It extends to how products are presented on the website. This includes displaying the correct price in the local currency, so that there are no hidden foreign exchange fees.

If you are claiming you care about your audience, literal translations is not enough. Some phrases or slogans could often be seen as inappropriate in some cultures – employ someone with a good understanding of cultural differences and colloquialisms that are relevant to each territory. Similarly, with social media, localisation is important. Even visual assets could be an issue – for example, sexualised imagery is considered inappropriate in many cultures.

Personalised localisation

Brands are always looking for new ways to tune-up their localisation strategies – they are now turning to technology. Businesses are seeing positive ROI by using geo-targetting tech to localise a website. For example, you’re a clothing store and when rain is forecast over a five-day period in France, geo-targetting technology means that the homepage will present local customers with a rainwear banner.

The power of personalisation is huge in retail with some companies reporting results of a 52% uplift in web conversions. This is brilliant example of how digital is improving the customer experience.

Be Pragmatic

Local market conditions often require marketers to be agile in their approach in order to achieve the right brand execution. It’s a big and tough task.

Meeting the requirements of localisation is a challenge for all international brands but regardless of how it is achieved, marketers must give careful thought to how their brand translates overseas.