How to Expand Your Business Through Language Awareness

Contributed content / By Alexander Zeller / 14 March 2019

Language presents both infinite challenges and opportunities for businesses trying to advertise and market their products overseas. Businesses need to consider the steps they need to take if they want to expand their business to new audiences.

Businesses need to pay close attention to the target country’s culture before engaging an audience in a new language to ensure nothing gets lost in translation

There are several thousand “living” languages spoken in the world today and businesses shouldn’t feel limited to just the key languages when trying to connect with different audiences.

Businesses that are “language aware” understand both the opportunity a multi-lingual marketing strategy can present and the importance of making sure their translations are culturally tailored for each audience.

Here are 8 steps The Migration Translators recommend businesses should take when trying to gain a global presence through language. 

Research Your Potential Customer

The first rule of marketing is to know your customers. It is a bad idea to sell your products to customers in a different country without getting to know them first. 

Businesses should research who are most likely to buy their products, keeping in mind gender, age, economic status, whether they are urban or rural dwellers, what language they speak, and what their culture is like. Businesses should always be aware of potential cultural barriers that could affect their ability to sell their product. 

For example, if a company sells meat products, it should know not to sell pork products to countries with a predominantly Muslim population. However, companies that sell dairy products, like cheese, should consider marketing their products to China and other Asian countries, since there is a high demand for dairy products

Language barriers can also be overcome with research. Businesses need to make sure the marketing campaign is translated for both accuracy and meaning. 

For example, The American Dairy Association wanted to start marketing their products in Mexico using its “got milk?” campaign.

The American Dairy Association wanted to start marketing their products in Mexico using their “got milk?” campaign.

However, when they translated “got milk?” into Spanish, it translated to mean “are you lactating?”, which wasn’t received well by potential customers in Mexico. 

When they translated “got milk?” into Spanish, it translated to mean “are you lactating?”, which wasn’t received well by potential customers in Mexico.


The mistranslation of the “got milk?” campaign shows how important it is for businesses to consider their audiences in different parts of the world and acknowledge that sentiments won’t always translate exactly the same way. 

Businesses that are “language aware” understand the importance of researching their target audience before launching a campaign, even if it was successful in other places. 

Understand the Relationship Between Language and Culture

Before you start marketing your product to overseas markers, consult with an advertising agency to make sure your brand logo, color scheme, and slogans are appropriate for your target audience and translated for both accuracy and meaning. 

Your logo and the colors you use will be your main identifying factors, so it’s important to make sure you avoid inappropriate wording or color schemes that are unappealing to your target audience. 

Companies that don’t pay attention to translations can lose credibility with their overseas markets. For example, Ford tried to attract customers by launching an advertising campaign in Belgium. In the campaign, it claimed that all of its cards had “high-quality bodies” which translated to “high-quality corpses.” This did not entice many people in Belgium to buy Ford cars. 

Pepsi also fell foul to poor translation when doing its early marketing in China. Its slogan in English "Come Alive With Pepsi" was translated in Chinese to mean "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!"

Pepsi also fell foul to poor translation when doing its early marketing in China.

Ford and Pepsi did not consider how their slogans would translate in different languages and how the message would be received. 

Accuracy in translation requires an experienced translator who is aware of the relationship between language and culture and who understands the importance of translating for both accuracy and meaning. 

Choose Transcreation Over Translation

The American Dairy Association, Ford, and Pepsi all chose to translate their slogans which caused their campaigns and products to lose their identity. Businesses can choose transcreation instead of translation to find the right words to use in their targeted languages. 

Transcreation can only be completed by a competent translator who knows both languages and cultures well. Adapting your product message from one language to another while maintaining its style, tone, intent, and context is important for both your product and your customer. 

You cannot depend on word-for-word translations. Some of the translated words may be culturally inappropriate and others may not exist in the target language. 

Transcreation allows businesses to make sure their message and products are accurately communicated in different cultural and lingual contexts. 

Protect Your Products

A patent helps prevent intellectual theft and other businesses from copying your product.

Don’t forget to register your product with the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or the relevant patenting authority in your targeted countries. 

The PCT is administered by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization. For a small fee (approximately $3,000-$6,000), you can patent your unique product in several countries for up to 30 months

The patent should be translated into all the languages you intend to target, so if you find a product that matches the features of your product you can take legal action. 

Know the Laws in Your Targeted Country 

Each country has its own regulations for imported products. Import taxes are common and help protect local businesses from their market being flooded with cheap imported products. 

If you are expanding to overseas markets, you need to know your target countries’ laws regarding things such as minimum wage, paid leave, sick leave, working hours, sanitation, and recycling. 

Poor translations of your business’s protocol and processes can lead to trouble so you need to make sure everything is translated into the target country's language. 

Understand the Target Country’s Tax Laws

Some countries offer incentives or tax breaks to foreign-owned businesses. 

To know whether or not you qualify, you will have to arrange a meeting with the officials in your targeted countries who handle overseas businesses. 

You may need to provide a translation of your business’s information and ensure an interpreter is available. 

Make Sure You Have a Reliable Shipping Company

Once you’ve confirmed where your overseas markets will be, you need to make sure you can keep up with the demand for your products. 

Once your product leaves your warehouse or factory, it has a number of obstacles to cross before it reaches your customers. Some ports of entry have lengthy customs protocols and security checks before allowing products to pass through. 

You need a reliable freight company that knows how to handle these obstructions without slowing down the shipping process. 

Any documentation about the products will need to be translated so they can be processed with minimum disruption. 

Make Your Products Available Online and In-Stores

It is a good idea to sell your products both online and in-stores, keeping in mind the challenges that come with both of these avenues of commerce. 

Set Reasonable Expectations for Online Customers

The internet makes it easy to access a global market. Businesses should still make sure their e-commerce website reflects their language strategy and customers receive products with minimal delays

Always set realistic arrival dates and hold your shipping company accountable. 

Recruit Capable Sales Teams and Compensate Them Fairly

If you are planning to sell your product directly to your customers in your targeted countries, you need to set up storefronts with trained sales teams. This comes with extra responsibilities such as paying staff, rent, and taxes on your products. 

User manuals, warranty information, and quality guarantees all need to be accurately translated into the customers’ languages. 

Make your products available and accessible to customers, whether you want to sell them online, in shops, or both. 

Language Awareness Can Help You Expand Your Business

Increasing your business’s sales by exposing your products to international markets can help ensure your business’s long-term success. 

By following the right steps, making sure you know and comply with all international laws, and acknowledging when to use translation and transcreation, you can introduce your products to new and expanding markets. 
 

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