How to translate brand tone of voice authentically, to a new market?

Enter African Market

Developing a brand’s tone-of-voice for a new market can turn out to be one of the most challenging projects to take on. Right? marketing and branding folks?

After all, you are attempting to give a “personality” to your offering, in what is a unique culture than the one you are used to.

The hope is that this “personality” aligns with the values and beliefs of a target audience that you wish to connect with.

But things can go very wrong…

Offensive language, and cultural inaccuracies can kill a brand’s reputation long before take of.

If you have been tasked with translating a brand’s tone-of-voice to a new market, then this article is for you.

Keep reading below to learn how not alienating your audience, conducting thorough market research, and staying flexible in your approach — can make translating brand tone-of-voice to a new market, a seamless experience.

Let’s jump in…

The challenge of adapting to new markets…

…Is that the worlds a big and complicated place; people from different cultures often have different expectations for how brands should communicate with them.

For one, a brand for whom individualistic self-expression are key aspects of their brand voice, may be perceived as selfish in say, a more collectivist culture.

Or, a confident and outgoing brand voice, when translated to a more reserved environment, can come across as arrogant.

Such nuances are important, as they ultimately impact your localisation services efforts.

Honda understood this nuance perfectly

For individualistic western countries, Honda UK talks about freedom of the road and the thrill of adventures awaiting those who purchase their motorbikes. Whereas Honda Thailand’s website speaks more to helmet safety and how the brand encourages community support.

The balancing act here is clear: adjust your tone of voice for your brand to be well received. Whilst also thinking through solutions of how to demonstrate to your audience that your brand aligns with their core values and beliefs.

Do not to alienate your audience

In any way attempting to bring your brand personality to life in a new market.

This defeats the entire purpose of entering a new market. Which is to gain new customers for your product and services.

You should definitely avoid:

  1. Using references people in a new market may not understand such as references to pop culture trends, references to tv shows they may not have seen etc.
  2. Anything that can be seen as offensive. Like making inappropriate jokes, sexist comments and generally being insensitive to local culture.
  3. Jargon filled words and content. People are busy everywhere, all the time, this includes folks in a new market; make it easy for them to accomplish a task on your website or app.

Conduct market research into dialects and languages

Brands can mistakenly think that just because their brands tone-of-voice is well received in their home countries, it can just be carried over to a new market without adaptation.

Big mistake.

Think of it this way, Japanese people speak Japanese, but, within the language there exist various dialects ( Kanto in Tokyo, Kansai Ben in Osaka etc.) which you should understand the nuances of; fail to do so, and you could create ineffective content for that market.

Stay flexible and adaptable

Time and resources are limited! And you will not always have enough time and money to optimise tone-of-voice for every market you’re eyeing.

A workaround solution?

Pick a tone-of-voice that’s most likely to work in a variety of markets. This is especially useful in markets that share a similar language, like English in the U.S, in England, and in Canada.

Something to be aware of, however… Similar language does not mean a similar culture.

In this case, you may want to consider transcreation; adapting one language to another while preserving its original tone, intent, and style.

Useful questions for adapting your tone-of-voice to a new market

  • How are they usually sold to by local brands? What puts them off?
  • Are they used to being addressed formally or informally in brand communications?
  • In what ways/s are the audience’s core values different from those of your home market?
  • What dialect, vocabulary and language do they use?

Afrolingo is a specialist, South African translation and interpretation firm that helps businesses adapt their marketing messages – to specific African cultures – to realize exponential business growth. Contact Us now!