Going Global: Navigating the Complexities of Global Content Delivery

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It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to build your company’s brand and corporate identity, and when you move into foreign markets, you don’t want your message to get garbled or, worse, literally lost in translation. When it comes to transferring your name, logo, tag line, product name, product descriptions, and so forth to a new language and culture, it’s not always inherently clear what to translate and what to leave alone. Apple, for instance, a company with a particularly strong brand, leaves its product names the same across its international websites, including Asian countries, and only translates the descriptions. For France and Germany, Apple leaves the navigation bar and the company name in English; but for China, it changes the company name and some of the navigation bar entries.

Like Apple, you have to decide on a country-by-country basis what is appropriate for that language and culture—that means thinking not only about translation but localization as well. For companies that have invested so much into their brands, it only makes sense to monitor this process carefully to the greatest extent possible. Ultimately, however, it requires a leap of faith that the in-country marketing/translation/localization team understands your message and how to transfer it in an appropriate way for the local market while maintaining the integrity of your brand and messaging. As with any complex business problem, technology can help, but it can only take you so far, and it requires human oversight to make sure your message gets through as intended.

Content Management and Delivery

If you think about generating content, it involves three basic steps: creation, management, and delivery. When you create content, you need to think about translation by applying terms consistently and, to the greatest extent possible, how the content you are creating will translate into different languages and cultures. Content management systems store the content for you and can help you deliver content in a variety of formats and languages to different markets. But Don DePalma, chief research officer at Common Sense Advisory, Inc., a company that advises clients on how to navigate in international markets, says content management and delivery are two distinct processes.

"The management part is about the systematic definition, storage, collection, and safe-keeping of the content—the ability to have something persistently stored and modified without loss of critical information," says DePalma. This enables different applications to use this information without fear of changing or losing the source information. He explains that a content management system may feed these applications a variety of content for any number of reasons, such as an FAQ in your customer service application, information on your company website, or a paper manual that ships with your company’s products. These applications, DePalma says, are in effect delivery channels, and when you move this content into a global market, the company’s brand managers need to be thinking about how to transform that content for foreign markets.

Stefanie Lightman, VP of global marketing at Open Text, says that from her company’s perspective as a content management vendor, content delivery and management go hand in hand. "Most of our customers look at how they can edit and manage their content, but also how they can deliver it out to an audience so that they can do that in a targeted way." She gives an example of a company delivering content to a U.K. and an Australian website. While they both speak English, you still need to make sure that the language on each site is targeted for the local market. "There are a lot of organizations that see the benefit of doing the localization at the visitor level and targeting that content to them based on what region they are coming from and what URL they have chosen to visit," Lightman explains.

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