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Best Practices for Creating Compelling Multilingual Packaging


8 min read

Written by


Argos Multilingual

Published on

23 Jul 2018

Very often, global and domestic customers want different things from the same products. Marketing to these unique segments is never universal and requires localization strategies that address each customer’s cultural values, attitudes, and buying behaviors.

In the race to meet consumer needs and maintain market leadership, companies are making timely adjustments to a key element that accounts for 10 percent of every consumer purchase. Indeed, we are talking about the actual container in which the product is offered for sake, and on which information is communicated – the packaging.

Packaging is essential to the manufacturer, retailer, and ultimate consumer-even for something as ordinary as bananas! Addressing the language and labeling needs of multilingual consumers is a challenge that requires a baseline knowledge of localization’s best practices. With just a little understanding, it is possible to create compelling multilingual packaging that demonstrates the strength of your global brand.

Here are Argos’ best practices for creating compelling Multilingual Packaging

Use Style Guides

Stylistic consistency relates to multilingual packaging in the same way as branding does to marketing. A carefully documented style and layout specification reduces localization costs by reducing revisions. Adherence to style guides expedites localization because if any part of the effort is outsourced, a localization team will have the collective history of a product’s packaging. Without this background information, the direction of a brand may be compromised by linguists and multilingual desktop publishers. To be effective, these documents must be updated regularly to include changes made during the creation of additional products and versions.

Manage Your Glossaries

Multilingual glossaries are another quality practice that supports the localization process by standardizing terms in your content. Terminology management is critical in multilingual packaging where consistency is needed to clearly explain a concept or a product and not cause confusion for the end-user. Glossaries should be treated as business intelligence with a documented process in place to ensure all vendors and reviewers have the most up-to-date version.

Translation of Packaging Copy

The language you use in all marketing communications, and especially packaging, should reflect each target locale’s unique cultural expressions and values. Translating marketing messages for international campaigns often leads to ineffective copy, as words expressing people’s values cannot be easily conveyed. Simple word-for-word conversions are not sufficient. Linguistic subtleties make copy difficult to translate without extensive creative writing and cultural analysis. A branded slogan that has conquered domestic markets rarely transliterates to another language with the same power and precision.

To ensure effective and high quality multilingual packaging, use experience linguistic experts who understand how to write marketing and packaging copy in each of their languages. In trying to save on linguistic costs, companies commonly make the mistake of using in-house bilingual resources as translators, resulting in a disparate branding message.

Text Expansion

Without a limited amount of real estate, packaging designed without considering text expansion is difficult to localize. For example, Italian or German text typically requires approximately 25 to 35 percent more physical space than the English source. We recommend that products targeted for international markets budget approximately 35 percent more space in initial design and templates to accommodate expansion.

Products with extensive usage information and legal copy can preserve valuable branding real estate by expanding packaging into inserts or using the practice of e-labeling, which is being adopted more frequently by medical device manufacturers. 

Multilingual Desktop Publishing

Packaging is a graphical element. Graphics pose additional challenges for the localization process that can be costly and time consuming. For example, if the source files contain problematic graphics, the time and cost needed multiplies by the number of targeted locales. The obvious solution is to optimize graphics before localization begins.

To prepare your graphics for success, you should separate graphic localization challenges into two categories: technical and cultural. Each category requires separate expert resources; however, a basic understanding of graphic preparation can help you reduce your localization costs and time-to-market substantially.

Cultural Challenges

Successful packaging localization involves cultural research since pictures, icons and other non-verbal elements may look different to people from different cultures. They may be thought to bring bad luck, be considered vulgar, or symbolize unrelated ideas. Colors and even the number of objects in a group may have meaning that obscure or contradict the message the packaging is trying to convey.

The best solutions is to have graphic designers from the target culture review source packaging. If this is not practical, then it is best to stick with simple layouts and depictions of everyday objects that are used in the same form worldwide.

In-country or Target Market Review

All quality localization projects should incorporate a review step by a representative from the target market. The local subsidiaries and distributors should verify that the localized packaging contains accurate country-specific product terminology and meets all cultural conventions for their country or region. Ideally, the in-country reviewer should be involved early in the project, especially during the glossary development stage, so their preferred terminology and product knowledge can be incorporated.

Outsourcing Packaging Localization

To overcome ever-changing language challenges, select a language service provider who specializes in labeling and packaging localization for your industry. This ensures that translations are accurate, consistent, and technically correct.

When working with language service providers, establish a clear understanding of critical objectives and timelines with your localization project manager. This is your main point of communication between you and the assembled team of linguists and technology resources. The more you communicate with your language service provider, the less likely you are to experience a surprise with your global strategy.

Creating compelling multilingual packaging is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers with long-term global and multi-cultural objectives. Competition makes it too easy for your audience to turn to another source that accommodates their unique wants and needs. Once upon a time, companies were able to produce products in one language, as long as that product was in demand, but language is no longer the problem of the consumer. Language is now an urgent challenge for the manufacturer.

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