Brand Translation is never just Word for Word Especially in the MENA

Brand and business documents translated from one language to another have issues. It is very easy to make a mistake when you’re translating from one culture to another.  Translating from English to a language and culture which has unique and profound differences such as in the Middle East or North African regions, then the task can become considerably difficult.

When you seek to do business in the Middle East, getting an accurate brand consult and a translation of certain ideas or marketing materials will be essential. This post looks at common mistakes, and ways to address them.

Issues of the Same Alphabet

If we look at communication within the region, then issues can arise because a word for word translation may use native expressions which have no meaning in other lands. This can lose the marketing message completely and even make the communication nonsensical.

A True Story…

An engineer from the Middle East  was visiting Chinese business partners. He emailed ahead to give them his itinerary so he could be collected from the airport.  The email stated:

“I will arrive on 1st May, at 22:00 with Allah’s will”.

When he arrived in China, and met the Chinese administrator who arranged for his collection she asked him why Mr. Ala Will had not come! Had the engineer stated with God’s will, the message would not have been lost in translation. As it was the engineer saw a driver holding a sign for Mr Ala Will!

This is a valuable lesson when we work in the Middle East. It is essential the brand consult understands the culture they are translating from, and the culture they are translating to.  Otherwise disaster will strike.

The key is in adjustment and change

Regardless of your business size eventually you will need to prepare your brand for the region you are marketing to. This includes the translation of logos, documents, website, and social media into a way to that communicates with your target market.  This as we have seen has risks.  As a rule of thumb always:

  • Use a reputable the brand consultancy. Look for ones who specialise in the Middle East. These will be able to not just translate words but translate cultures.
  • If you have a person on your staff who can speak Arabic, ask them to read the translated materials. A second pair of eyes and a second opinion can be valuable here. It is quite easy to say the ‘wrong thing’ and this is a good way of preventing that.
  • Gauge the feedback (As the client is always right) from your translated document. If you get good results you have done well. Once you are satisfied that the translation agency is doing a good job, stick with them. They can make life a lot easier.

“The Secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”– Socrates


Visuals not Words

With the advent of global branding, many corporations now feel images are a good way to get the marketing message across. Images tend to be more generic and carry a broadly similar message across cultures.  This is not without issue however, but generally images are a safer bet.

  • Company’s profile: Again, using a brand service consultancy agency is advised. Your text and Images in your marking materiel can mean different things in different cultures and the importance of getting it right cannot be overstated.
  • Logo: One worldwide coffee company had to remove some parts of their logo after the hosting country felt it was too racy. This is where images can bring unwanted attention to the business.

If you are going to do business in the Middle East, having a partner who can handle the branding is worth their weight in gold. Known Office ensure your marking materiel is on point and moreover get the message across in the Middle East.  If you are planning to do business in the region, we will be happy to help. Please visit us. Click here. Or Book your consultation today! Click here.


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