How Packaging Translation Can Make or Break Your Company

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By: Rae Steinbach

When deciding what kind of text to include on a product’s packaging, companies must take several factors into account. Laws, branding goals, and even simple factors like deadlines all play a role.

If a company wants to export a product to a foreign market, it must ensure the packaging text is translated accurately, while also accounting for the specific laws and regulations of other countries. This is where seeking out content translation services come into play: Professional translators can ensure your packaging content is as accurate as possible while preserving your brand message and abiding by local laws.

The following are key elements that businesses must consider when translating content. By keeping them in mind and coordinating with translation experts, your business will be more likely to avoid the kinds of problems that can arise from translation errors.


Legal Requirements

Many companies are legally required to include certain key information in packaging text. However, the specific legal requirements can vary from one country to another.

For example, in China, there are strict laws regarding what kinds of ingredients a cosmetics product may contain. Those laws also require companies to list certain ingredients on the product’s label if it includes them.

Canada is another country with unique packaging laws. Because large portions of Canada’s population speak French, packaging text must be available in both English and French.

These regulations are never consistent across all countries. That’s why it’s essential to work with a team that specializes in local translations so that you can be sure you’re abiding by local restrictions before attempting to sell a product in a foreign market.

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Accuracy

Ever tried using Google Translate?  Exactly.

It’s crucial that packaging text is translated accurately, and it isn’t just a matter of honestly representing what a product is and what it can do. In many cases, translation errors can have significant consequences.

Recently, Mead Johnson was forced to recall two types of baby formula when they discovered a poor English-to-Spanish translation that resulted in packaging text instructing customers to prepare the formula in dangerous ways. According to the United States Food & Drug Administration, if the formula was prepared according to the mistranslated instructions, it could have been fatal.

It’s important to not solely rely on machine translation when offering a product in another country. Working with skilled professionals can help prevent these types of mistakes and save you from Google Translate shortcuts.

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Design

When translating text from one language to another, the result could take up more (or less) space on the packaging than the original. This impacts the packaging layout, potentially ruining the appeal of the original graphic design.  It also makes for a busy, clustered design on the pack.

As a result, this could make a product appear less attractive to consumers. Businesses should account for this by making adjustments to the packaging design when translations impact the layout substantially.

 

Name & Slogan

Product names and slogans often rely on colloquialisms or phrases that might not be relevant to a foreign culture.

Sure, sometimes the results are amusing to the consumer and it makes for a delightfully meme-able moment. Colgate once released toothpaste in France called Cue, blissfully unaware that it was also the name of a well-known, French pornographic magazine.

While consumers may find these errors humorous, but for companies, they can still have a significant impact on a product’s success. That’s why simply translating the text from one language to another isn’t enough. It’s also important to understand the culture of a foreign market.

These errors aren’t always harmless or mildly embarrassing, in some instances, they can be genuinely offensive to customers.

 
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Timing

These factors are important and choosing to ignore them when translating packaging text can have significant consequences. That said, businesses must also adhere to strict deadlines when exporting products, but taking the time to accurately translate packaging doesn’t change that.

That’s another reason to enlist the help of dedicated translation professionals for these types of projects. Translation firms that employ native speakers, leverage technology when appropriate, and respond swiftly to a client's needs help businesses complete the process with much greater efficiency. They also ensure that companies don’t embarrass themselves by failing to accurately translate packaging before releasing a product to a foreign market.

After all, packaging text plays many different roles. It communicates what a product is and what it can do, and it can also help a company establish their brand. In many cases, it provides instructions that customers must be able to understand in order to use a product safely. On top of that, it also must adhere to the laws of the country it's being marketed in.

In other words, translating your packaging accurately isn’t something that can be overlooked or is a minor necessity – it’s essential to a product’s success.


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Rae Steinbach

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

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