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3 Global Branding Secrets Every CMO Should Know

by Stephanie Engelsen

June 12, 2013

global branding

As any Chief Marketing Officer can attest, mounting a successful global branding campaign takes leadership, strategy, and direction. Not all marketing campaigns translate to a global market. From crafting the source copy to rolling out the final creative, there are a lot of details and factors to consider. Finding the right approach can take a trick or two. The best global CMOs would advise you to do three things:

Start at the source

The more global appeal your source campaign has, the easier it will be to translate it to multiple language markets. Every culture has different values and beliefs but there are a few universals (almost) all of us can agree on: everyone wants to be safe, happy, loved, successful and healthy. Building your campaign on universal motivations will help ensure that it resonates in all your markets.

Think of Nike’s Find Greatness campaign during the 2012 Summer Olympics: it takes the universal desire to achieve success and expresses it with images of ordinary people engaged in ordinary athletic activity around the world. The Olympics are a natural venue for Nike’s concept but the idea resonates at any time.

Johnny Walker took a similar concept — personal progress and achievement — and created their highly successful Keep Walking campaign. When it came time to adapt this campaign for the Chinese market, Johnnie Walker faced a dilemma: they had an idea that resonated with the culture but the culture didn’t associate the concept with whisky, Johnnie Walker’s product. The solution? They reimagined the “Keep walking” endline as a drinking toast to personal progress, effectively linking the global concept with the product. 

The Coca-Cola Reasons To Believe commercial is another example of a source campaign with universal appeal, this time in terms of the visuals. The scenes and actors in the clip, subtitled into Greek, could represent a variety of countries and cultures around the globe.

The case for transcreation

As Johnnie Walker discovered, using a global slogan in a different culture and different language can be problematic. Because marketing copy seeks to persuade and relies heavily on metaphors, idioms and word play, it can often sound ridiculous when translated directly into another language. That’s why transcreation is essential to the success of most global marketing campaigns.

Transcreation takes the essence of your global source copy and re-creates it in the target language. This process requires the same kind of creativity, thought and time that went into creating the slogan in the first place. Building the time for transcreation into the rollout schedule for your global campaign is crucial. The transcreation process starts with a creative brief and can involve native language copywriters, translators and editors. When done correctly, transcreated copy achieves the same tone and punch in the target language as in the original.

Our teams recently translated (read: transcreated) a series of slogans for Beats by Dr. Dre. The slogan for the urBeats™ HTC Version, “Made to take a beating”, was a clever English play on the word “beat”. However, a literal translation of this double-entendre would clearly not work well in French. Our marketing translators decided to take the concept of sturdiness and resistance and recreate the slogan in French: “Conçus pour résister à tous les tempos”, literally, “Made to resist all tempos.” This is a play on the more common phrase: "Conçus pour résister à tous les temps", or, "Made to resist all weather conditions." The concept is arguably as clever in French as it is in English and the basic essence of the slogan was preserved.

To prepare for transcreation, it’s best to involve your translation agency as early as the campaign creation process in order to identify ideas, copy and images that play well across markets.

What’s in a name?

Transcreation isn’t just for copy. It also works for names. Making sure your product name works in every market is another critical step in launching a global campaign. It might sound great to you, but it could be communicating something else to a speaker of a different language.

Two important questions to ask yourself about your product name in a new market:

It’s best to carry out this research when you’re still in the process of developing your brand and product names for the domestic market. And as with transcreating copy, build enough time into your campaign schedule to properly vet the name in all your desired target languages and make adjustments if necessary. 

Armed with your CMO’s three secrets, you’re ready to begin the creative process of stretching your brand to global proportions. Learn more about our marketing translation services or get a free translation quote today. 


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