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Val Swisher, CEO, Content Rules

Val Swisher, CEO, Content Rules

In today’s world, more and more companies are realizing that in order to increase revenue, they need to expand their brand into foreign markets. These companies spend quite a bit of money getting the product ready, prepping the market, finding and training sales people, and so on. Unfortunately, they often overlook the impact of translating and localizing the content (websites, technical documentation, knowledge bases, marketing collateral) that is part of the brand and product.

As a result, these organizations end up spending far too much money on less than perfect translations that take far too long to create and involve far too many in-country reviewers. In this post, I discuss the thing you should keep in mind as you prepare your content for the rest of the world. With a little extra care, you can save your company a lot of money, cut time-to-market, use fewer hours of your in-country reviewers’ time, and end up with high-quality translations for all of your markets.

A Little Terminology

There are many different terms that float around the globalization world. Let’s look at a few definitions from Wikipedia and The Oxford English Dictionary:

Globalization (G11N)

  • The process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade. (Wikipedia)
  • [Something that is] developed so as to make possible international influence or operation. (Oxford)

Internationalization (I19N)

  • The planning and preparation stages for a product that is built by design to support global markets. (Wikipedia)
  • To make (something) international. (Oxford)

Localization (L10N)

  • The actual adaptation of the product for a specific market (Wikipedia). The Localization Industry and Standards Association (LISA) further describes localization as a phase that encompasses four issues:
    • linguistic
    • physical
    • business and cultural
    • technical

Alternatively …

  • To make (something) local in character. (Oxford)

Translation (T9N)

  • The communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. (Wikipedia)
  • A written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word, speech, book, or other text, in another language. (Oxford)
  • Wikipedia has a decent article on the differences between localization, globalization, and internationalization. You can read it here.

During my day, I rarely think about the differences among all of these terms. They are all important and they all relate to content quality in a different language. In other words, when you take content that was developed in one country (say, the United States) and you want that same information to be meaningful in another country (say, South Africa), what are all of the things to consider?

Among others, think about:

  • Culture
  • Meaning
  • Mores
  • Ethics
  • Language

I put language at the bottom of the list on purpose. Not all phrases translate in a word-for-word way. In fact, word-for-word translations can be very inaccurate at times. They can be meaningless and they can even be offensive. So, when you are getting ready to distribute your content to the world, make sure that you work with people who know a lot about the various countries where you will send the content. Otherwise, the results can be potentially disastrous.


Transcreation is a relatively new term in the world of content. In fact, there is no definition for transcreation in either Wikipedia or the Oxford English Dictionary. I recently attended a conference where Rebecca Ray of Common Sense Advisory gave a fabulous presentation about transcreation.

There are times when the art of translating content becomes more of an exercise in rewriting the content than simply taking the sentences and putting them into a different language. This is especially true for marketing content. Good marketing content contains nuance that resonates with the reader. This could be a play on words or something that is meaningful in a particular culture. In these cases, you really need to recreate (transcreate) the content for each of the target markets.


Rebecca showed many examples of transcreation. My personal favorite is the variety of in-country sites that the costmetic company, Lush, has developed.

Here is the Lush site for the United States:

Here is the Lush site for Saudi Arabia:

And the site for Lush Japan:

As you can see, these sites are not mere translations of each other. They are completely transcreated for each marketplace.

Another example of transcreation is these two different videos from Sony about the NEX camera. The first is for the U.S. market and the second is for Japan:

Bottom line – When it is time to distribute your content globally (and it IS time to distribute your content globally), be sure to consider all of the factors, not just the source and target languages of the text.

About Val Swisher

Val Swisher is the founder and CEO of Content Rules, Inc. Formerly Oak Hill Corporation, Content Rules reduces the cost of globalizing your content, so you can expand your brands’ footprint into more markets. Implemented in the cloud, ContentRules™ IQ targets companies who have an in-house team, reducing the cost of localizing content by up to 40% while enforcing control over content quality and brand standards.

For those customers who don’t have an in-house team, Content Rules provides the people and expertise needed in four areas: technical documentation, training development, marketing collateral, and global readiness.

You can contact Val Swisher on Twitter (@ContentRulesInc) and check out her website at contentrules.com. She also frequently writes about localization, translation, and globalizing your content on her blog.