Adapting Communications for International Markets—Part 1

Being able to successfully adapt established corporate marketing materials for foreign markets is a great service to offer—but it’s not as straightforward as you might think.

Making an effective adaptation requires the management of some very important factors—here’s the first of a two-part post.


1. Establish a network of trusted translators

Just because someone knows the language well doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good translator—translation is a skill.

It’s always best to use a native speaker as they understand the cultural norms and know the shades of meaning between certain words and phrases. Don’t believe us? Read about these marketing mishaps.

 2. Convert

Native speakers will also be able to help point out instances where metrics need to be converted or reformatted to fit established conventions. If you’re adapting your English piece for a market that uses the metric system, it’s usually fairly evident what needs to be converted—i.e. units of length, distance, area and weight.

But if you’re dealing with scientific or highly technical information, some conversions won’t be as intuitive. For this reason, it’s also important that your translator be somewhat knowledgeable on the subject matter. Metrics aren’t the only items that will need reformatting—also be sure to check dates, times and temperatures where applicable.

3. Describe Your Audience

Where will these materials be used and in what capacity? Questions like these are important to answer before turning your copy over to a translator—don’t assume they automatically know your audience’s expectations. The more information you can give them, the better!

4. Familiarize yourself with size conventions

Understanding your target audience also plays a role in determining proper size and mechanical specifications. Mexico, Canada and the United States are the only countries that adhere to American standards, while most other countries have adopted the A series.

Therefore, it’s a good bet that after translation you’ll need to reformat your original piece to conform to appropriate size requirements—refer to the list of common size conventions below.

After your copy is translated, there are still important details to manage to produce international marketing materials to be proud of, not embarrassed by. Adapting Design for International Markets – Part 2