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Every company needs to ensure that its brand is appropriately represented in all its communications. Most companies have a brand guide for this, which describes how their brand should be represented in writing and visually. Typically, this includes company values, logo, colour palette, and typography, examples of appropriate graphics for publications, and tone.

Tone of voice is key

One of the most important aspects of communicating a brand is tone of voice. While using non-brand colours or font styles may not be a huge problem, language that does not fit the brand can damage a company’s reputation and market perception. Your tone of voice reflects your personality; in essence, it “speaks” for you. While companies usually clearly define their tone of voice in their brand guidelines, they may not address how it should be modified to accommodate cultural, religious, and linguistic differences in translated materials for global markets.

How can translators stay true to the brand’s tone of voice?

Even for very experienced translators, it is dangerously easy to misinterpret or lose a brand’s unique tone of voice in translation. Here are a few tips on how to lower the risk of potential issues with translations.

Avoid using slang and colloquialisms: When selling abroad, it is essential to assess whether the tone and language used in communications are universally appropriate. Many organisations state in their brand guides that colloquialisms or slang should not be used in marketing materials, as international customers may misinterpret them.

Keep sentences short and to the point: In long paragraphs, the tone of voice can be mistranslated or context misunderstood. Overlong text can contribute to poor readability, which is a problem in and of itself.

Make a list of key translation considerations for each country: It is a good idea to include in your brand guide a list of key differences (e.g. in culture, values, traditions, and religion) that linguists should keep in mind when translating for a particular market. For example, if France is an important market for a Finnish company, the brand guide should highlight ways to adapt to cultural differences between Finland and France.

Specialised terminology: In your brand guide, include terminology that you prefer and terms to avoid. Industry or company-specific terminology may need to be used in internal communications, particularly in that region. In contrast, marketing materials may use more general, user-friendly, and approachable language.

Applying these tips will ensure that the tone and personality of your brand are appropriate for each target market. This will help your brand maintain its identity in another language, while ensuring that you speak to your potential customers and prospects abroad in the same tone as you do to your local customers.

If your brand is launching in several markets simultaneously, adapting your tone of voice to each of them and thus localising your content is no easy task. It requires expertise in the market languages, creative flair, and a deep understanding of local consumer behaviour and preferences. It is tempting to rely on native-speaking staff in regional offices to translate and reduce costs, but this is not recommended. When evaluating the quality of the translation, it is crucial to ask not only “does it make sense?” or “does it express the intended meaning?” but also “does it give the reader a good impression (of the company/product)?” Experienced and specialised translators are well-versed in producing a text that will do all three. Once the professional translation is ready, your company’s local distributors can propose any potential tweaks.

Cultural and linguistic variations in tone of voice adaptation can make or break your international expansion. To increase your chances of success, make sure you work with a team of experienced localisation experts who truly understand your brand.

Alamma offers translation services in over 70 language combinations, most frequently German, French, English, Slovenian, Italian, and Spanish. Don’t hesitate to write to us at and tell us more about your localisation needs.

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