When advertising in China gets lost in translation

When advertising in China gets lost in translation  article image

When Australian exporters launch a marketing campaign in non-English speaking countries, it is tempting to simply hire a translator.  

But by creating a word-for-word version of an English advertisement, you can sometimes miss the mark – your message is lost in translation.   

This is particularly the case when it comes to resonating with Chinese consumers, says Alexandre Crazover, a founding partner of multilingual digital production company Datawords.  

Crazover presented at the recent China digital marketing conference China Connect in Paris to discuss his company’s focus on localizing, adapting, and deploying digital content for global brands.  

In an interview with leading Chinese publication Jing Daily, Crazover gave some useful tips on how foreign companies can best engage with Chinese consumers.  News_AlexandreCRAZOVER-040-BD

Crazover explains why the emphasis should not only be on translation.  

“At Datawords, we believe that localization is an integral part of any marketing strategy, he told Jing Daily. “Therefore, while we do our best to keep the heart of the marketing copy from its original language, we take into account local customs and user behaviors to best adapt and localize.” “Localization” is key when it comes to luxury marketing in China, he says.  

This requires native-speakers to ensure that the user experience is optimum at every level.

Crazover suggests the following few do’s and don’ts before embarking on a marketing campaign in China:  

  • Be aware of local regulations for doing business in China, especially if one wishes to trade online
  • Invest in a professional translation of one’s website and all marketing materials, and to adapt online advertising & SEM campaigns to popular Chinese platforms. It’s also important to offer multiple payment options.
  • Invest in m-commerce platforms.
  • Remember that speed matters – and security concerns should not be neglected.  

Crazover says Chinese culture plays a very important role when creating a Chinese-language marketing campaign.  

“If you don’t take into account the local culture, you cannot launch a successful marketing campaign, he says. “Chinese characters are a wonderful way to advertise in a funny manner because they can have so many different meanings through various combinations, and this variety is an incredible tool.”  

At the same time, Crazover says Chinese culture should always be respected – and it is important to go beyond a literal translation.  

In the luxury sphere, such as fashion or cosmetics, Crazover’s company has many non-Chinese clients from regions like Europe and North America requesting services for their China market presence.  

And conversely, he currently works with Asian brands helping them to deploy their marketing campaigns internationally.  

Language is at the root of any marketing campaign  

In addition to written copy, his company specializes in digital marketing campaigns involving many visual components such as video, imagery, and web design.  

“Language is at the very root of any marketing campaign, he says. “While a picture may be worth a thousand words, nothing can quite match a written description of a product or the perfect catch phrase.  

“Slogans such as Nike’s “just do it”, or Disney’s “the happiest place on Earth”, remain with customers much longer than any image or video.  

“While this is just my personal opinion, I believe that visual components are there to reinforce the written copy, not supplant it.” 


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