A view from Hannes Ben

Tech viewpoint on performance linguistics

Copywriting in advertising has earned a reputation for being a unique skillset.

How to write persuasively while also communicating the proposition of a product or service and furthering the perception of the brand’s identity is a unique challenge. Online advertisers in particular are faced with marketing channels that impose distinct rules on the length of copy, the use of particular terms and other regulations depending on the location in question.

Whether you are writing short, effective copy for customers (as with paid search) or as part of a wider content strategy, your specific choice of words can dramatically alter the effectiveness of the message. Paired with this, in recent years online marketing has seen the mass adoption of data analysis in order to continually optimise campaigns.

It is therefore surprising that this dual level of emphasis and understanding is often not applied in the same way when advertisers look into overseas expansion.

Even the best marketing copy in English can prove ineffective when translated into another language

Even the best marketing copy in English can become convoluted, take on a different tone and prove ineffective when translated into another language. And yet this is the simplistic approach that many businesses still adopt. Fully localising written content – so that it is not only translated but also checked for tone, intonation and is then continually reviewed for performance – is a more time-intensive investment but also ultimately produces far greater results in terms of return.

Performance linguistics allows brands to negotiate the balance between marketing performance and brand perception. At present, it’s unusual for the same person to have the linguistic skills to fully localise copy into another language, the required knowledge surrounding platform regulations and also the data analysis skills to continually optimise campaigns.

In search marketing, the same message in English may take far more or fewer characters to express in a language that employs a non-Latin alphabet, for instance. There may also be opportunities to strategically use short or entire phrases in English.

The internet has already provided far easier access to overseas markets. Performance linguistics is a distinct subset of the digital marketing industry that is set to grow exponentially as the barriers to international e-commerce get fewer and less significant.

Understanding – at the level of a native speaker – the subtleties of how different combinations of words come across in the context of a specific online platform, and also how they are likely to perform from a marketing perspective, can make or break your international expansion.

Hannes Ben is the executive vice-president, international, at Forward3D