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Don't Get Lost in Translation: 4 Simple Rules for Global Researchers

Posted by Carole Hubbard

Tue, Feb 26, 2019

international research

As brands expand into developing markets, the need to gather opinions of local consumers has increased in kind.

To get accurate information and responses, it’s common practice to translate surveys into local languages when conducting international research. However, all too often the quality of the translation can make or break the success (and accuracy) of research results.

Many years ago, at a previous company, one of my clients, a leading athletic apparel company, conducted a seven-country global study to segment their consumers and understand underlying brand perceptions. One of the key perceptions we explored was the notion that the brand had “sold out”, which in the US means no longer being true to oneself or one’s heritage.

During analysis, I couldn’t understand why some of the countries highly agreed with this metric, as expected, while other countries (e.g., Germany and China) completely disagreed. Looking at the translated questionnaire, I quickly realized why.

Our conceptual term “sold out” was literally translated as “sold out”, as in, out-of-stock or not available in stores. A complete disconnect from what we originally meant.

While this was a disappointing discovery, there are some valuable takeaways on best practices for setting up global questionnaires which can easily be applied to any international market research project:

1. Choose your words carefully. A successful translation begins with the chosen English words. Avoid colloquialisms, expressions, and any words or phrases that may have multiple meanings.

For example, idioms and other phrases “cash cow”, “standing engagement”, or “hangout” may seem innocuous, but could have very different meanings if translated literally into other languages.

Read the questionnaire out loud and think critically about what's being said. If anything has the potential to be misconstrued, select different English words to express your meaning.

2. Conduct a conceptual or content translation, not a literal translation. This approach looks beyond the actual written words and instead focuses on the original intent or objective.

3. Encourage your client to ask a local colleague to review the translation. If your client is an international brand, they likely have global colleagues. If so, encourage your client to ask a local colleague in the country where research is being conducted to carefully review the translation. This will also help ensure any messaging or industry-specific terminology has been captured properly.

Be sure to provide the English version along with the translated version so the translation is being reviewed in the English context.

If no local colleague is available, translation services can usually offer an independent translator to review the document or conduct a back-translation (the questionnaire document is translated back to English). The latter is often more expensive but can be well worth the investment as opposed to getting unusable data.

4. Remain engaged throughout the entire translation process. As the researcher, you are most familiar with the project objectives, so it's critical you work closely with the translator to ensure nothing is overlooked or skipped in the translated questionnaire.

Implementing these four simple practices can literally help make your next global research project a success!

Carole HubbardCarole Hubbard is a Sr. Project Manager at CMB whose travel bucket list includes Ireland, Austria, Tuscany, Greece, and Switzerland.

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Topics: international research, research design

Will the Sun Set on British Brands?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, Feb 04, 2016

British-brands.pngAdele, One Direction, Burberry, Downton Abbey, Kate Middleton, the Royal Family, and, of course, myself… the British are once again invading the shores of the U.S.

Young British musicians continue to take the American music industry by storm—in 2012, four out of five of the top five selling albums in the U.S. were from British artists. Just last December, approximately 10 million fans fought over 750,000 tickets for Adele’s upcoming 2016 tour. The entertainment industry is not the only one seeing dollar signs with this British Invasion. Coffee shop and fast food chain, Pret a Manger, plans further U.S. expansion after successful stints in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago, building on its brand of fresh, prepared products.

It’s clear that Britain as a brand has been riding a positive wave in the U.S. in recent years with the London Olympics and the birth of the Royal Prince and Princess acting as potential catalysts. The allure of international expansion into the American market, therefore, seems the most logical step for British brands looking for the next stage of growth. According to a Barclays study in 2013, the U.S. was considered the top current market for sales growth for British retailers, but it was also considered the toughest overseas market to break. British supermarket chain Tesco found out firsthand the difficulty of attempting to break the American market. Pre-packaged, fast-food meals have been a staple product on the shelves of British grocery chains for years, and the research, Tesco believed, seemed to suggest this could work among U.S. consumers. However, a lack of familiarity with this style of eating, the onset of the 2007 depression when Tesco’s “Fresh & Easy” chain launched, and the higher associated costs in comparison to buying fresh produce ultimately resulted in a failed $1.8 billion gamble when Tesco withdrew from the market in 2013.

The notable failure of Tesco is a stark reminder of the potential pitfalls for British retailers looking to expand into the U.S. market. While there is clear admiration for the quality and culture of British brands, any decision a British business makes in deciding to jump over the Atlantic should be highly researched and strategized. Any brand looking to break into a new international market should build their decision on a solid foundation of research, with some key research criteria identified below:

  • Identify a target market: The world is a big place. With over 200 possible markets, identifying the correct target market is critical. How have previous brands fared when venturing into new potential markets? How do exports fair? What are the current economic conditions, and do these favor new entries into the market?
  • Market conditions: GDP growth, birth rate, employment rate, and inflation rate—all of these are among a variety of macro-level economic indicators that can help gauge market condition.
  • Opportunity: Is there identifiable demand for your product in the market, and do consumers have a familiarity with your offering? Is the market existing and mature, or is it in its infancy?
  • Consumer preferences: While consumers can appear to share certain elements of cultural identity, this does not necessarily mean that they share the same purchase and consumption culture. Pret a Manger has understood this, adapting its style of service and menu for the U.S., where its coffee is self-serve, unlike the Barista approach taken in Britain.  
  • Competitive situation and positioning: Understanding the competitive situation and brand positioning of competitors can help you gauge how to uniquely position your brand to acquire market share. British brands seeking to enter the U.S., for example, can leverage perceptions of heritage and quality to command a greater price premium, but must emphasize its position and point of difference in ways that meet consumer needs.
  • Market sizing and growth potential: Have we identified our target market? Are we confident there is an opportunity? Do we have an idea of the kind of consumer we could attract and where our brand sits? Do we understand the current competitive landscape and current levels of competitor usage? Knowing the answers to these questions when entering a new market requires a market sizing task to understand the financial opportunity or return on investment. 

There has been a lot of buzz in the CMB office recently around the Boston debut of low-priced fashion retailer Primark (which is only about a half mile walk from the office). This is a hugely successful and cult brand in the U.K., but time will tell if the Irish retailer has effectively researched and gauged its ability to seduce the American consumer with its own brand of discount fashion, or whether, like many before it, they have underestimated the difficulty of breaking the U.S. market.

Josh is a Project Manager at CMB. Having recently entered the U.S. market himself, he is hoping his own brand of British fares better than Tesco’s.

We recently did a webinar on research we conducted with venture capital firm Foundation Capital on Millennials and investing. Insights include a Millennial segmentation, specific financial habits, and a look into the attitudinal drivers behind Millennials' investing preferences. 

Watch Here!

Topics: international research, brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation, retail research, growth and innovation

International Market Research Starts with Choosing the Right Partner

Posted by Jared Huizenga

Tue, Apr 13, 2010

There's a lot to consider when collecting international data. It's a whole different ball game outside the U.S. market. From methodologies to translations to project management, a lot needs to be taken into consideration-even in other English speaking countries.  The first step to any successful international research project is choosing the right partner.There are so many choices and they are not all created equal. A single data collection partner will never be the right fit for every project. At CMB we have created our own Global Certified Network to ensure we have the most well rounded pool of partners we can team up with on every project.  Having our own certification process has allowed us to hold our data collection providers and partners to the same high level of expectations our clients have come to rely on us for.

To qualify for CMB's Global Certified Network our partners must agree to several strict requirements including industry standards, security requirements, data quality assurance, and project management guidelines. Some examples are...

  • Industry Standards:  All certified partners are required to comply with the ESOMAR International Code on Market and Social Research. In addition, all vendors must comply with national, regional, and local laws. They also must sign Chadwick Martin Bailey's Confidentiality Agreement.
  • Security Requirements:  All partners are required take active measures with regards to respondent privacy. This is especially true when using client-provided sample lists. The partner must be CAN-SPAM compliant and destroy all sample records at the end of a project-or at any time per Chadwick Martin Bailey's request. 
  • Data Quality Assurance:  Partners must demonstrate that procedures are in place to guard against "bad" data and if any issues with data collection arise, partners are required to inform us immediately and offer proactive solutions. Partners must inform us upfront when they are using additional partners for data collection and they must give us the names of those additional partners if issues come up.   
  • Project Management Guidelines: Partners are required to provide a minimum of two points of contact and to respond to queries and requests from the CMB project staff as quickly as possible. Partners must also agree to participate in frequent meetings to give us status updates.

These are just a few ways we ensure our partners share the same commitment and high standards we do when approaching each project. This certification has also allowed us to build an outstanding network of partners with some of the best and brightest companies in our industry.

Posted by Jared Huizenga is CMB's Field Services Manager. Jared is on the New England Barbecue Society's Board of Directors and is the pitmaster on a competition barbecue team.

Topics: international research, B2B research