An article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week highlighted some common misnomers about localisation and translation for China: After researching in China, an Australian vitamin brand found that their Mandarin-speaking Chief Science Officer would be most compelling speaking English in the brand’s promotional videos for the Mainland market.
For some, it may be a strange concept that communicating to the Chinese target market in Chinese can hurt sales. But it comes down to authenticity. If you are trying to promote yourself as an Australian brand, or from another English-speaking country, you appear to be the real thing if your communications are in English.
Similarly with packaging. If a brand’s labels are translated in Chinese, many consumers are less likely to associate the product with the positive attributes around that country of origin and will question how the Chinese supply chain has been involved. The less similar it looks to the same products in the supermarket of an item’s home country, the less Chinese consumers will trust it.
Notwithstanding, there are countless touch points where translating into Chinese is advantageous. Even though over 300 million claim to have English skills, it is rudimentary for many. And even fluent English speakers will instinctively turn to Chinese and be more comfortable in their native tongue. Chinese language is often preferred in the details, such as searching for facts on a website, or reading a visitor guide on holiday.
Whilst some videos look more authentic with spoken English and Chinese subtitles, there are many examples where videos in Chinese or with a Chinese speaker translating on the fly are hugely successful, such as Tmall’s streaming video service.
Getting the mix of English and Chinese language right, and in the correct places is just the start – localisation should be much more than just translating messaging word for word. Chinese consumers often have completely different buying behaviour and motivations which is best reflected in positioning and communications. And those motivations regularly differ from region to region. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.