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January 21, 2011

Supporting Multiple Languages with Marketing Automation

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Since many of our clients are global brands, our local marketing automation platforms must support multiple languages. When supporting multiple languages, the more you know, the more you realize the difficulty of the task at hand.

One major challenge we initially faced: varying lengths of copy depending on the language in which it appears. A paragraph in English tends to be much longer when written in German or Japanese (see the image below), and much shorter when composed in Simplified Chinese. So how can a marketing automation system account for that problem? We have had success using line based copy-fitting rules, but we think this is an area where the marketing automation industry, as a whole, can improve.

A second challenge we face involves a brand's licensed font set. Most major brands choose a font or set of fonts that their affiliates must use for brand compliance. Clients often choose their branded fonts for western characters, but those same fonts might not be available for character based languages. This is a discussion we often have with our clients who may not initially realize just how many font licenses they will need to purchase to ensure global brand continuity.

A third issue to consider here is the accuracy of translations between languages and the difference in social connotations associated with words or phrases. We've all heard stories about phrases that are funny in English but translate into something meaningless -or worse, offensive- in another language. What is the best way to build and maintain a marketing automation system that regulates the literal and social translations between languages? One way Pica9 addresses this issue is through our approval loop feature.

The last major challenge we see in maintaining multi-language support for local marketing automation systems is communication amongst participants. We feel it is up to us to help foster communication between our clients, their local affiliates, and our in-house team of developers and customer service representatives. We approach these situations with a great deal of patience, but still, this is perhaps the most challenging issue of all.

What are your thoughts on carrying a brand across multiple languages? What are some other major challenges that we have not mentioned here? Do you think this is becoming less of an issue as we experience globalization, culturally and economically?

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by Kevin Groome

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