Just came across this lovely little article titled "Lost in Translation" about Match.com’s discovery when they first tried to go international with their message "Love is complicated. Match.com is simple". Here’s the relevant bit,
But when the company began its international expansion three years ago, setting up local websites in 32 countries from Norway to China, executives made a common miscalculation. They assumed that overseas cultures would respond to the same basic pitch that had worked so well in the U.S. market. But in many regions, that message simply did not stick. Something was lost in translation.
"We learned that it was not just about taking the copy off our English site and translating it," says Match.com Chief Operating Officer Joe Cohen, who oversees the company’s international operations and expansion efforts. He now understands that localizing a website is very different from translating it. "I’m at the point where I tell translators to forget the copy on
the U.S. site," says Cohen. "I say, Let’s talk about the meaning and
the semantic message."
Words that make my heart beat faster – this is the essence of what I’ve been talking about in my recent posts. The need for interpreting your message across cultural filters in order to communicate your message, your intent if you will, using cues that are appropriate in the local cultural context rather than straightforward translation.
More from the article,
Translating a website is relatively easy. But localizing it in a way that addresses foreign customers in meaningful terms, without straying too far from the U.S. brand, poses a significant marketing challenge for many global companies. At one end of the spectrum lies the temptation to scrap the U.S. content altogether and develop a fresh voice that’s tailored to local customers, be they in Portugal or Peru. At the other end is the belief that every international site should fall in lockstep with the brand, supporting the creative so carefully cultivated back at corporate. The sweet spot, as one might expect, often lies somewhere in the middle.
Finding the sweet spot, that’s the key, imho.