3 Tips For Translating Your Packaging Labels

Mrignayni Pandey

Content strategist, and copywriter.
June 7, 2022

Find out how you can overcome the challenges of translating labels and make sure your products sell just as well overseas and in new markets.

When companies export products, they double-check to ensure that they meet the regulatory requirements of the target country. But often, they overlook product labels and miss cultural nuances while translating them.

As a result, the brand’s message and values aren’t clearly conveyed to the customers and the products don’t resonate with the local audience, resulting in the company suffering a loss.

So, we’ll shed light on some important elements you should look out for when translating labels and what you should do to ensure that the translated label retains your brand’s essence.

Here’s what’s covered in the article:

4 things you should look out for while translating labels

Getting product copy translations right on the first try is important because it can make or break your entry into the new market. It has to be tweaked for the target market while keeping the original brand message intact. So, here are a few things you should look out for while translating labels.

1. Legal & language requirements

Different countries have different regulations on what must go on their product labels. So, ensure that you go through the country’s labeling and language legislations to avoid compliance issues.

For example, Canada has a huge French-speaking population. So, if you are planning to export to Canada, it is mandatory to provide product information in French & English on labels of all kinds.

If you’re in the food and beverage industry and are planning to export your products to EU countries, your labels should have nutritional information in the front of the package, according to EU regulations. However, the same isn’t true if you're exporting products to the US as the FDA requires nutritional information to be added to the back of the label.

You should also translate the product’s functions, ingredients, and warnings into the country’s local language if you’re exporting products to Austria, Bulgaria, France, Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia.

2. Marketing claims

Companies make advertising claims about the ingredients, package contents, or nutritional benefits on the product packaging. But sometimes, these claims are misleading and using these products affects customers adversely.

So, many countries have strict regulations against these claims. For example, in the UK market, using the words “natural,” “artisanal,” or “traditional,” to describe your product (without any scientific evidence) will land you in trouble with the authorities.  

You also can’t make misleading claims about the product size or quantity, its origin, or celebrity endorsement. The same goes for EU labeling. For example, you cannot claim that something is in abundance of a nutrient when it is not.

3. Spatial constraints

Translating product labels from one language to another can take up more or less space on the packaging. So, you’ve got to design a readable and conspicuous label while also ensuring that the label meets regulatory requirements regardless of whether you’re going to design single or multi-language labels.

For example, if a label is translated to Russian, it can take up to 15% more space, so you can omit text not required by the law. But if you’re translating your labels to Finnish, your text will shrink at least 25% so you should ensure that your label doesn’t have too much white space.

4. Cultural differences

Converting label text into the local language shouldn’t be the first and last step in your package translation process. You should also tailor the product name, brand story, and product copy for the local market.

Otherwise, there are going to be some embarrassing consequences and a subsequent loss of revenue and reputation.

One of the most infamous incidents was P&G’s Pampers incident. When the company started selling pampers in Japan, they retained imagery of a stork delivering diapers as it was a hit in America. However, the response from the Japanese market was highly underwhelming because in Japanese culture, a giant peach was symbolic of babies and not storks.

Another element you should look out for is colors. Most cultures have a symbolic meaning attached to colors. For example, the color red represents good luck in China but some Eastern European countries associate red with communism.

So, understanding your consumer’s culture and heritage to choose a combination of colors is key to creating a great brand image overseas.

3 tips to get your label translations right

The best way to make your product a success in a foreign market is to offer the product in the customer’s preferred language. Here are 3 tips for translating packaging labels to get you ready for the global market.

1.  Work with a translation specialist

Using Google translate or another generic translation software doesn’t capture the essence of the message and in many cases, the translated version doesn’t resonate with the local audience because machine learning can’t pick up the nuances of the language. This results in a loss of brand reputation and sales for the company.

The best way to avoid this mishap is to get a native speaker who is well-versed with how the same language varies across different regions. This will not only help your brand reach the local audience but also save costs of product recalls and fines due to mistranslated words or phrases.

Note: Artwork Flow’s Google extension allows you to comment in any language on the platform, make annotations, and easily review any non-English label copy so you can get your product to market faster.

2. Localize your packaging

While translation is the process of changing the text from one language to another, localization refers to the practice of changing your layout, imagery, design, and more to communicate with your audience effectively.

It helps you break into new markets, increase customer satisfaction, and improve customer loyalty as localized labels help gain the trust of your customers and convert them into loyal brand ambassadors.

Here are a few elements you should consider when you’re localizing your product packaging to ensure that you’re having an effective translation.

3. Use transcreation and transliteration

Product communication when translated to a foreign language almost never has the same flow. This is where transcreation and transliteration come into play.

Transcreation is adapting your product name to better suit the target market. Transcreation is mostly used to generate nuanced and accurate copy for advertising materials.

Transliteration converts words from one script into another—such as from the Latin characters used to write English to Chinese hànzì characters—and often attempts to preserve the phonetic similarity of the word or phrase.

For instance in China, Coca-Cola is called "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."

How Artwork Flow makes the translation process easier

When businesses export products to foreign markets, they are bound to incur recurring costs for translating artworks. But these extra costs need not have an impact on your long-term operations. Spending time streamlining the artwork development process can help you save resources, staff hours, and the stress of translating product labels or information.

A few ways by which Artwork Flow helps businesses are:

Wrapping up

Translating labels brings a unique set of challenges and you’ve got to be familiar with the legal requirements and be aware of the cultural differences if you want to ensure your product becomes a hit overseas.

You should also streamline your artwork creation process and collaborate seamlessly with internal and external members to get everyone on the same page and eliminate confusion.

That’s where a label management software like Artwork Flow comes in. Its set of proofing tools helps you check for compliance issues and ensure brand consistency even when you’re creating multiple artwork versions to be translated into different languages.

If you want to see results for your business, talk to one of our product experts today.

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