You are here

Transnational website content marketing strategy: language is one thing, culture is another

This post was originally published on the Novacom blog.

The rationale behind a content marketing strategy is to, working in conjunction with a marketing pipeline calendar, deliver marketing communications to your target audience.

These communications roll out strategically, unfolding the brand story and value proposition and help the target audience navigate the road ahead on the journey to full engagement and final buy-in.

Transnational communication has greater complexity

Running the same brand story and value proposition on a transnational level is more complex. Firstly, you have to pay attention to the translation process.

Translation is not simply a case of literal rendition of words in another language, it goes a lot deeper than that if it's going to be effective. And what is interesting about this is that many of our clients' first instinct is to spend as little money as possible producing this work.

Is 75% sub-optimal a goal you really want to hit?

This is slightly strange as these translated areas of the website might amount to a larger proportion of the site than the original home language.

This would certainly be the case if there were, say, four languages including the home language and would amount to 75% of the site with sub-standard translated content by comparison with the 25% home language area.

Less is more

So plain, cheap literal translation won't suffice. The issue with literal translation is that it will certainly lack accurate, succinct information as a literal approach simply translates words and not meaning, and that will show.

And it will show to experienced professionals such as our team here at Novacom who may not even read that specific language but will know at a glance that there is an issue.

How? Because there is a specific but informal equation in language translation where from base English, French will increase in length by 25% and German, say, by around 30%.

What you don't know can wreck you

Here at Novacom, our highly experienced team know this, and know that in any given language the expansion - or language swell - will almost certainly be within given parameters. And if beyond these language swell parameters, the translator must be struggling to impart the information succinctly, due to unfamiliarity with the subject matter.

This will mean local and native readers of the translated marketing content will be assailed by possibly rambling, maybe even incoherent narrative, that fails to inform, persuade or engage.

In other words the content has now become pointless nonsense. And if you don't speak the language yourself, you won't know this, but your target audience certainly will.

You need SMEs to succeed

So translation needs to be done properly and needs money spent on it. When the home language version was written it was likely written by a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and so the translation needs to undertaken by a translator with at least an understanding of the subject.

If you take this route, you are pretty well assured of good quality content that will inform, persuade and engage visitors. But there is another critical issue that needs careful consideration in a transnational content marketing strategy - particularly in the B2B sector - and that is local business culture.

Culture is critical

Quite apart from the accuracy and succinctness of your marketing content, its localised business-cultural nomenclature is of significant importance.


For example, in Sweden, the over-use of superlatives in marketing content can be perceived as stretching the truth, which is considered bad business or marketing practice. In general, this is true across Scandinavia. But - very specifically and just across the border in Denmark - environmental statements are required by local law to be relevant and up-to-date and must be reviewed regularly as is necessary to align with current environmental developments.

Much to learn, much to gain

Transnational marketing communications with accurate, succinct and engaging marketing content that resonates with specific local market culture is critical to market development and commercial success.

But if you start by selecting a digital marketing agency with long-term transnational experience and knowledge, most of the challenges can be addressed at the strategic planning stage.

In the EU, transnational marketing can be highly lucrative. But if you want to succeed, you can't do it on the cheap.


Photography: The iPad of Manhattanheng by WarmSleepy. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Secondary photography: broadway by ernestopletsch. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0