A multilingual branding campaign can deliver multiple benefits, from international customer engagement to a rise in sales and profits. However, branding in multiple languages is not without its challenges. What works in one country doesn’t necessarily translate to success in another. Below, we’ll lay out some of the challenges of multilingual branding and how you can overcome them in order to increase your chances of international success. We’ll also include some examples of how brands present themselves differently in other countries, to bring the reality of multilingual branding to life.
The challenges of multilingual branding
The main challenge of multilingual branding is that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach if you want to maximize your chances of success in each country. Instead, you need to adapt your brand to suit different audiences around the world.
We can begin to understand some of the issues if we break a brand down into its component parts. Let’s take a look at colors, for example. In Muslim countries, green is a holy color. In Ireland, it is associated with good luck. In China, however, green is associated with infidelity and lack of trust. Red, meanwhile, is considered lucky in Chinese and Native American cultures, but others carry connotations of danger and sacrifice for other audiences.
Imagery presents problems too. Brands that rely on images of people can quickly come unstuck once those people don’t represent their target audiences. This can mean having to reshoot ads and promotional videos, with all the associated costs.
Then there’s the more emotive side of branding. How does a brand make audiences with wildly different values and priorities feel the same way about it? It’s certainly possible but that doesn’t make it easy. Netflix, for example, is available in almost every country on Earth. However, that achievement required a detailed localization strategy in order to make the brand appeal to so many different audiences.
Ultimately, a brand needs to fit with the expectations of the target audience in order to succeed. It needs to look and feel ‘right’ in order to resonate with customers and create the desired emotive response.
The importance of accurate translation
One hugely important aspect of multilingual branding is language. Any brand that’s serious about succeeding overseas will need to prepare a business translation strategy in order to lay out its priorities and approach. This means examining language from every angle, starting at the top – with the company name.
Crisp company Lay’s is a prime example of this. It’s known as Walkers in the UK and Ireland, Margarita in Colombia, Chipsy in Egypt, Sabritas in Mexico, Tapuchips in Israel, and Smith’s in Australia. While various mergers and takeovers have led to the various brand names, Lay’s has taken the decision to roll with local versions in order to continue appealing to local audiences, rather than enforce the use of the Lay’s brand name and risk losing customers loyal to the other names.
Sometimes, a change of brand name isn’t a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity. Take Ghana’s popular Pee Cola brand. Clearly, should the company ever wish to court English-speaking audiences, a change in the name might be appropriate.
Straplines and other important elements of brands’ linguistic identity also need to be put under the spotlight to ensure that they translate appropriately into other languages and cultures.
How to address the challenges
Addressing the challenges of multilingual branding might seem like a headache, but it’s well worth doing. Consider that delivering consistent brand presentation across multiple platforms can increase revenue by up to 23% and the value of getting branding right is plain to see.
So, how can companies ensure their brand resonates internationally? Market research is the key. Understanding local audiences and building localized brands around their values and expectations starts with getting to know those audiences.
In the age of social media, market research is easier than ever. Companies can connect with consumers from the comfort of their office chair, using social media to target the specific demographics at which their brand is aimed.
Once the company has acquired an in-depth understanding of the local audiences it is targeting, it’s time to localize the brand. This means adapting the look and feel of the brand in order to connect better with local audiences. In some cases, localization may even morph into transcreation, where the brand is given a more major overhaul, though always with the same values and desired emotive responses in mind.
Mapping all of this out into a coherent localization strategy is essential. This high-level overview will serve to keep the company focused on which elements of the brand to retain (and why) and which can and should be changed.
Multilingual branding examples
There are plenty of examples of brands changing their name around the world. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky) in Quebec, Canada; Vauxhall is Opel in Europe; Olay is Olaz in Germany and Switzerland. The list goes on, with many household name brands using a different name to sell their wares overseas.
Then there are brands that go a step further. Lipton’s range of tea is a good example. Buyers in the UK are used to a sunshine-yellow but otherwise rather plain box of teabags with minimalist design. The company’s ice-tea range is a little more snazzy but still rather sedate. In Japan, however, cartons of Lipton tea are bursting with color, featuring eye-catching designs with mountains, trees, and Japanese-style buildings.
Focusing a brand on local audiences in this way has immense potential – when you understand what makes those audiences tick. It can be a challenging area of work, as you’re catering to a range of different needs and tastes, but with the right approach to understanding your target markets and translating your marketing to suit them, multilingual branding can be the key to unlocking major international success.
Cover image source: Surendran MP