Using customers’ language to grow your brand

Should organisations use their customers’ language? Get it right and you will reap the rewards — increased coverage, followers and retweets — get it wrong though, and your legal team could be calling.

One of the UK’s largest retailers, Argos, is a company that understands the importance of solidifying customer relationships through online engagements. Recently, its customer service team replied to a tweet from a potential customer who was complaining about the availability of the PS4 in his local store:

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To which @ArgosHelpers replied (presumably after consulting their teenage children):

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The result? issue dealt with, an extra 1,500 followers (in one day) and a happy customer:

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Apart from the baffling language that sent even us running for the Urban Dictionary, Argos showed how the combination of humour, content and medium can be combined to solve customers’ problems, communicate clearly and promote their business to new audiences. By matching the tone of the original tweet, the company generated a positive response from a complaint, without being offensive — a perfect example of peer language adoption.

Even if Argos’s use of slang is too ‘left field’ for your organisation right now, there are still lessons to be learnt here. The importance of knowing and applying your customers’ preferred language, whether they spend their day thinking about cloud architecture or PS4 availability, is something every organisation needs to acknowledge — y’get me?

Sprechen Sie français?

There are many fabulous translation agencies out there who’ll do an extremely efficient job of converting your text into a local language. We can put you in touch with one or two if that’s the approach you need to take.

Sometimes, however, you need something more or different.

Gimme more

By more, we mean that a translation isn’t always enough. The text needs to be rewritten in the local language to convey the same subtleties of meaning as the original—and this is not a function of language but of messaging. To illustrate: a good quality proofer would be able to correct ambiguities and inconsistencies in your copy, and may rework whole paragraphs of the original (20–30% is typical) but they’re not able to originate copy with flair; and the same is true of a good translator.

A bilingual writer, on the other hand, can take a brief about the messaging and purpose of the piece to be created and then use the original English text as source to effectively create a new piece of copy that’s fit for purpose.

Vive la différence

By different, it could be that you don’t have and don’t need the copy in English at all—so why spend time and money creating an English version? Our mother-tongue writers work to the same exacting standards as our English-language team. They can interview in the local language to get all the information they need and write persuasive content that will convey your messaging with authority.

Zusammenarbeiten

We work as a team despite the geographic distances; you enjoy a single point of contact for your content development activity while we make sure any style preference or process changes are consistently applied across all languages. This is especially valuable for case study programmes and newswires where a uniformity of style or approach is required.

Language options

Alongside our English writing capabilities we also provide French, German, Spanish and Dutch origination. Get in touch to tell us more about what you need +44 1628 622187.

How to write a case study for translation

So you have a great case study, it’s been well-received in your region and it makes sense to have it translated for use around the world. How do you know that it will have the same impact in Lisbon as in London?

A great story can be made average, or worse, if not properly tailored to the local market. Readers will perceive that you are remote, out of touch or simply not interested—and business could suffer as a result.

By following some simple steps, you can craft case studies—in fact any customer-facing content—with global appeal.

1. Write with your foreign readership in mind

Don’t avoid local flavour, but do ensure that you write with your foreign readership in mind. For example, ‘the recent floods in Fleet’ implies prior knowledge both of the location and recent news events. Provide context for non-locals by writing ‘recent floods in the UK village of Fleet’ instead.

If you have reason to believe that this approach will jar with local readers, leave out the context for the local audience and provide your translator with an alternative as a separate note, for example: ’the recent floods in Fleet’ should be translated as ‘recent floods in the UK village of Fleet’.

2. Unleash your creativity

When you know that a case study will be translated it can be tempting to write in a very measured way, avoiding complicated words and colloquialisms. But the result can often be bland and uninspiring.

  • Use complex or non-literal language if it enhances your writing, but provide a brief explanation for the translator of what it means so they can use an equivalent local-language phrase or a more generic translation that captures the meaning. Ask them for a back-translation—this way you can make sure the phrase hasn’t been translated verbatim and that your message hasn’t been lost or diluted.
    For example:

    English phraselike chalk and cheese
    Spanish translationcomo el día y la noche
    Back-translationlike the day and the night

  • As with any kind of writing, avoid jargon that hasn’t become part of common parlance or isn’t universally understood by the audience you’re writing for.

3. Choose a good translator

Choosing a good translator is as important as choosing a good writer because, unless you’re fluent in the target language, you must be able to trust them to tell the story on your behalf. Questions you need to ask are:

  • Does this person understand my business?
  • Does this person have local knowledge of the region they will be translating for?
  • Do I need to bring in somebody with localisation skills to deal with subtle differences between, for example, Spanish as it is spoken in Madrid and Spanish as it is spoken in Mexico City?

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