How To Stay On Message As Brands Go Global!

How To Stay On Message As Brands Go Global!

In this guest post, co-founder of Storyation, Lauren Quaintance (pictured below), says more and more brands want to create global content that isn’t lost in translation. Here’s some lessons Storyation learnt from working with Tourism Australia and health fund Bupa…

Whether you’re in Toronto or Tokyo you’ll see a Starbucks ­– or an Apple Store – and yet, despite the much-hyped spread of globalisation, the world is not actually a completely homogenous place. Disneyland, for example, may be a quintessentially American brand, but its international theme parks have been tweaked to reflect local culture. Hong Kong Disneyland has been built to consider feng shui; Paris Disneyland celebrates European heroes and at Shanghai Disneyland Mickey Mouse is dressed in a traditional red Tang Chinese suit.


It may seem tokenistic to put a cartoon mouse in a red silk jacket, but when global brands don’t consider local nuances they risk immediately alienating their audiences.  There’s nothing more jarring than reading or watching content that uses phrases that are foreign or unfamiliar to you. (Are you sitting on a couch, a sofa, a davenport, a chesterfield right now?)

More and more my content agency Storyation is being asked to work with global brands like health and care company Bupa – or brands that want to talk to global audiences like Tourism Australia – to help them to understand how they can create content that transcends national boundaries without getting lost in translation. In essence these brands want to be “glocal” – global and local at the same time – because the reality is no-one can afford to only be producing market-specific content, and a global approach delivers real economies of scale.

So what do you need to consider when producing content for multiple markets around the world?

Basic Hygiene
At its most fundamental localising content means making sure that the spelling, currency and expressions used are native to the market you are speaking to. As any Australian will tell you all those ‘z’ words (organize/analyze/localize) raise an immediate red flag that the content you are reading has been imported from the US in the same way way that words like “pop” or “soda” feel so wrong.

Cultural Considerations
Beyond these technical changes there are bigger cultural considerations that might require you to adjust your content between markets. During a project to localise content for eight markets for Tourism Australia we learned that travellers in India largely don’t like to swim on holiday so coastal content needed to be changed to emphasise experiences they could have near the water. Equally when thinking about dietary content for Bupa we needed to consider the fact that breakfast in Spain might mean pan con mate (tomato spread on toast) while in China it is more likely to be congee (a mild-flavoured rice porridge.)

Geo-Specific Needs
With the best will in the world we cannot always anticipate the differences in trends or hot topics between regions, so there will always be a role for locally-produced content. For example, for Bupa, a winter flu epidemic in the UK – or an outbreak of bird flu in China – will mean those places have entirely unique content needs.

Regulatory Requirements
There are, of course, different laws and governmental guidelines in different countries so it’s important to consider how this might impact your content. For Bupa for example, when creating content about pregnancy we need to understand the dramatic differences in official health advice offered to pregnant women about how much alcohol, caffeine and sushi they should consume.

Evocative Imagery
It would be a mistake to say that there aren’t images that can’t be shared between markets. Of course we’re all able to access fairly high quality stock imagery but there is a genuine need for audiences to see themselves (and their way of life) reflected in imagery. Audiences in the UK who are in the middle of dreary British winter are unlikely to thank you for showing them a photo of people exercising on sunny Bondi Beach to illustrate a healthy living story.

Writing for Translation
There is an art to creating written (and spoken) content that is easily translated. Writing in International English means avoiding local vernacular and figures of speech as well as using short sentences that don’t have multiple sub-clauses to make it easy for translators.

Use Native Keywords
Just as translating content alone is not enough, you need to do more than translate keywords into foreign languages. Instead work with native speakers to understand how keywords are influenced by local culture.

All of which is to say that a global content strategy is not as easy as creating content centrally, translating it and then publishing in multiple markets. Creating “glocal” content is at times challenging but if brands set clear rules for localisation they can achieve a scalable and repeatable approach to creating content across global markets.

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