Localizing Luxury Brands

Localizing Luxury Brands
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China is now the world’s second-largest consumer of luxury goods (USA is first, Japan is 3rd). As the world economy grows the centre of gravity of the global middle-class shifts eastwards, with this shift your customers are changing, managing a luxury brand is not what it used to be.

The key to marketing a luxury brand is the considered and precise use of language to ensure that the target market is reached. Translating existing content with a full appreciation of the colloquial and cultural implications of the text is therefore vital to an effective expansion strategy.

The style and register is always paramount – never more so than when seeking to influence the purchasing intent of foreign markets. After all, if it was as simple as running the words through Google Translate there would be little need for a strategic multi-market plan. Irrespective of the product, service or demographic, in order to effectively promote on a multinational platform, it is therefore vital that the textual content is translated with a complete linguistic understanding of each specific market.

The Importance of Textual Identity

Brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci have all successfully created an international audience for their goods, one that has clearly integrated the labels’ textual presentation into new markets. Prada and Fendi, however, although internationally recognised, are arguably less respected within their extended field. This could be seen as due to the vagaries of taste and trend in foreign markets – or it could be considered the result of a lack of clearly identifiable textual characteristics.

A textual identity isn’t just about the types of goods for sale, but concerns the exact vocabulary used to describe them. Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci – despite being adopted for short periods of time by a less affluent demographic – have retained and transferred their premium position across all markets, in part due to their strongly maintained textual identity. Prada and Fendi, although retaining a healthy popularity on home ground, don’t seem to have the same prominence in foreign market consciousness.

Which means that attracting the desired demographic, particularly when translating from another language, involves a careful consideration of the original target audience, a comparison with the ‘new’ target audience, a focus on the commonalities of expectation and a setting of linguistic parameters that take all of these aspects on board. Ultimately, the skill required to translate a marketing message whilst maintaining the tone of the original language is, as yet, not automated; Google Translate does not recognise nuance, colloquialism, flow or flair – human translators do.

Maintaining Brand Equity

One of the most important aspects of premium brand marketing is to ensure consistency in public presentation. Building and improving international brand equity is more than a tick-list of actions – it also depends upon the successful harness of intangible assets such as desire, aspiration, ambition and, ultimately, satisfaction. Luxury purchases are as much an emotional choice as an investment in lifestyle, so textually placing a label firmly in the position of claiming both can only be of benefit. Therefore, the perception of a luxury brand will be dependent on the public profile, which in many ways will rely upon the textual communication used in marketing materials.

Having already built a profitable profile in one language, failing to effectively translate a successful textual identity into a multinational forum will not only hamper efforts in new markets, but also runs the risk of perceptually damaging existing positions. For example, one of the most popular articles on our blog details translation errors on food packaging. Certainly amusing in the abstract, but should such misunderstandings be associated with a luxury brand the inevitable media attention guaranteed by their premium position could only be of detriment to public perception. In short, the absence of a textually consistent public presentation might allow a perceptual interpretation at odds with the original associations of quality, exclusivity, craftsmanship and desirability.

Understanding Culture and Implication

Translating for a premium brand not only involves at least two languages, it also involves an understanding of the implications of culturally inappropriate content. The implicit interpretation of any text will be unique to the target market, so a linguistic gap caused by a lack of comprehension during the translation process can damage brand equity and affect the widespread perception of any new audience.

Cross-cultural misinterpretations of physical actions are an acknowledged pitfall in the business world, but potentially inappropriate textual content is arguably more embarrassing. Direct translations of product names, for example, have historically caused difficulties in foreign markets – General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova to South America, only to find out that “nova” translates as “it won’t go”; Clairol marketed their “Mist Stick” curling iron in Germany, only to discover that “mist” was a slang term for manure; and Ford inadvertently amused their new target audience when they tried to bring the Pinto to Brazil, finding out far too late that “pinto” was a slang term for “tiny male genitals” – the model was eventually, at great expense, renamed “Corcel”.

The task of translation for a luxury foreign market is, therefore, to find the most appropriate language in order to effectively convey the existing message, without falling foul of colloquialism or phrasing. Issues of social stratification, which could include class and caste as well as socio-economic positioning, are also of paramount importance when considering a language-based interpretation of an existing marketing strategy. Basically, if the original text includes a culturally responsive description of quality, a foreign audience may not recognise it. Or, more worryingly, it may contain the local slang term for “cheap”.

Multi-Medium Influence and Intent

Any push into foreign markets will inevitably be a multi-pronged and carefully strategised affair. With the ubiquitous nature of a multi-lingual website and the associated issues of the availability of descriptive comparisons, it is important that all mediums are treated with the same attention to detail.

Choosing a partner with the translation infrastructure to provide a retail translation service that can concurrently deliver a message via print, dual-broadcast or online marketing tools could be an efficient allocation of resources. It would ensure a textual cohesion that would allow each aspect of the project to be treated as a linguistically consistent whole, permitting an integrated approach to the ultimate strategy. Therefore, taking into consideration the need for a consistent textual identity, the value of the existing brand equity position, and the cultural implications of phraseology and vocabulary, a provider that is capable of consolidating their translation services to account for all aspects in a multi-medium format is clearly preferable.

In order that any message is not diluted by a separation of linguistic oversight, for the purposes of directing a market’s purchasing intent, textually creating an image of integrity, excellence, attention to detail and the highest degree of quality can be most effectively projected by normalising all multi-medium presentations. Indeed, ROI is achieved by reliably directing this intent with a dedicated strategy – an objective which could be reached in a foreign market by ensuring that all translations are performed by a culturally experienced specialist.

Preparation and Intent

Regardless of the specific nature of the brand or market in question, the ultimate factor when considering translating for foreign markets is need. In order to be able to define the exact requirements for a textual translation and set the appropriate linguistic parameters it is important that every decision is fully informed. To this end, we have put together a free, bite-sized translation guide that aims to make it easier to understand the processes and prerequisites involved in translating luxury brand content, particularly given the ramifications of a poorly executed campaign on a premium name. You can download it via this blog post > Corporate Translation Guide.

So, if your brand is considering the cultivation of foreign markets and would like to speak to one of our representatives about how quality translation services can help, please visit our contact page.