copywriting

Why Translation Services Are Vital in a Global Marketplace

So, you’ve come up with the slogan, you’re thrilled with the visual branding and your adverts are short, sharp, and effective. What’s next? If you’ve found success within your home-country give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve done a great job.

Now it’s time to step out onto the international playing field and tap into new markets, reach a greater audience, improve your reputation and expand your revenue.

There’s just one tiny problem: you don’t have a translator.

Translating marketing ideas from one culture to another isn’t just a matter of having the language and dialect translated well: your revolutionary ideas may hit cultural barriers in another country and your clever marketing campaign will simply fly over the heads of your intended audience.

In the past we’ve seen well-established brands such as KFC, Pepsi and Schweppes caught in international marketing blunders, begging the question: if someone like Pepsi can make a huge marketing faux pas, what’s stopping a small business like yours from doing the same?

Before you set off on your worldwide marketing venture, take heed of these reputable brands, who simply had to learn the hard way.

“Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave!”
When Pepsi branched into the Chinese market, they certainly didn’t want to imply their beverage would raise the dead… but their slogan did. The hit slogan ‘Pepsi Brings You Back to Life’ was poorly translated to ‘Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave’ – not an ideal sentiment for a culture that reveres their ancestors.

No Storks in Japan!
Pampers nappy manufacturer Procter & Gamble were hit with a translation blunder when they expanded to Japan. After wondering why sales were so low, Procter & Gamble did some research and found the problem was the packaging, which featured a stork delivering a baby. This Western fable isn’t a part of Japanese folklore, and as a result, the campaign was lost on Japanese parents.

KFC – It’s so good you’ll want to “Eat Your Fingers Off!”
Even the likes of KFC aren’t privy to a translation mishap! When they opened up in China in the late 80s, their infamous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good!” was completely lost in translation and turned into “Eat your fingers off!” Not the most tempting thing to see before dinner…

“Schweppes Toilet Water”
Over to Italy and we have big-wigs Schweppes happily boasting their refreshing “Schweppes Toilet Water” – a serious translation confusing the words “toilet” and
tonic”!

Richard Gere: Unpopular in China
Global giants in the automotive industry have also watched marketing campaigns fail in other cultures, with FIAT using the copy + paste method for their TV ads. In 2008 FIAT released an ad featuring actor, Richard Gere. Unfortunately, Gere is despised in China for his outspoken support of Tibetan independence, and online message boards become rife with people saying they would never buy a FIAT. Oops.

Parker Pens Make You Pregnant!
When Parker Pens moved their campaign to Mexico their in-house translator dropped the ball. Their ads were supposed to say their ballpoint pens “won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Unfortunately, they chose the verb “embarazar” for “embarrass” which means “to impregnate” so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.

Comprenez vous?

When big names find themselves in hot water over translation fails, their chances of bouncing back are much higher than when a small company makes the same mistake.
Smaller brands don’t yet have the benefit of a global reputation – their products aren’t widely recognised so the likely-hood of the public simply dismissing them straight off the bat is very high.

Save yourself the embarrassment: invest in a professional translator to really carry your marketing campaign across cultures and languages.

After all, employing a savvy translator now will save you a world of embarrassment in the long run – take it from Schweppes!

Languishing over language: how to improve your copywriting

In a fascinating interview with National Public Radio in America, UCLA professor Keith Chen spoke about how language can affect the way one thinks. Specifically he mentioned how different languages impact the way in which certain cultures view and save money.

In Mandarin for example, one does not say “tomorrow it will rain”, but rather “tomorrow it rain.” According to Professor Chen, this equalisation of the future and present impacts their worldview. In this way, Mandarin-speakers view saving money for the future in the same mindset with which they view having money in the present. This leads to an observable increase in their monetary savings.

Writing languate we got

In English we’re stuck with a ‘present progressive’, meaning that in order to speak about an event in the future we have to use an ‘obligatory form’. If that makes as little sense to you as it does to me, put it this way:

Today it is raining.
Yesterday it rained.
Tomorrow it…

There’s no future tense for rain. The only way to say it is: “tomorrow it will rain.”
The theory dictates that this characteristic of the English language means we’re predisposed not to put the future and the present on equal footing, but rather to view the future as a vague, incomprehensible eventuality sometime down the road. Thus, English -speakers tend to save less.

Language can literally shape the way we think.

Bad language past present future

The Internet can be an unforgiving place.

As a copywriter at Messages On Hold, my primary goal is to craft messages that shape callers’ thoughts about a company, product or idea. So how do we use language subtly yet effectively in our on hold messages? Allow me to show you.

Take for instance this sentence:
Did you know that when customers sign up with Tim’s Mowing they experience our great commitment to customer service by getting access to discounts on our full range of services!

The sentence is long-winded, bulky and the focus is on the seller, not the customer. If a caller is on hold hearing this message, not only will the sentence not sink in, but it doesn’t even leave the caller with an understanding of what Tim’s Mowing offers them!

Better writing through comedy buzzword
Let’s remove the excess details, drop the generic opening, turn the focus from the seller’s features to the buyer’s benefits and craft a clear message.

How’s this?
Sign up with Tim’s Mowing for all your professional landscaping and garden services  at discounted prices.

There’s no fancy language only a professional copywriter could come up with. There’s no brilliant eloquence to rival Shakespeare, Dickens or Austen. However, the sentence is succinct, unambiguous and focuses on how the listener/reader benefits.

We’ve ditched the words “can”, “commitment” and “when”. Those are all words that just fluff up and obscure what the client wants to hear. No one cares what you can do; they want to know what you will do.

The second example lays it all out effectively; you have landscaping requirements, they will provide a solution and this is how to engage with that service.

Eat your words, writing and choice of language
The specific language you use (or don’t use) will affect the way in which a caller might receive and absorb the information. In fact, at Messages On Hold we have a list of phrases we avoid at all costs.

Your messages need to orient the caller so they immediately understand what they stand to gain by engaging with your services. When it comes to improving your writing, it’s all about the specific language you use. Keep it simple, keep it focused and keep it targeted.

Tomorrow, we will write better.

In The Spotlight

At Messages On Hold, each department has its specialty, whether that be writing, sales, voicing productions or keeping the finances in check. But when it comes to customer interaction, everyone is responsible for controlling the variables that make the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. The same principle applies at restaurants.

I love pizza, and I was understandably excited when I got the chance to eat at one of Perth’s most exciting and hyped new eateries, which happens to specialise in this particularly delicious genre of comfort food.

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior...

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior…

It exceeded my expectations. The pizza was beautiful – wood-fired and topped with fresh ingredients, along with a herby sauce that provided a welcome twist in what is traditionally a by-the-book dish. Even the non-pizza items and desserts were impressive.  What’s more, service was friendly, knowledgeable and casual. In a nutshell, it was all perfect… except for one thing: the lighting.

A single light illuminated our table – and I’m talking a football stadium-esque spotlight, not the ambient mood lighting you might expect from most restaurants.  Bizarrely, the spotlight was angled in such a way that it shone both directly into my eyes and onto my cutlery before reflecting back up into my face.

The restaurant is a casual place, so perhaps high-end ambient lighting would be inappropriate. However, while it might be unreasonable to expect the team in charge of a casual restaurant to be experts in interior design, all eateries should be aiming to deliver excellent food with top service in an environment that’s comfortable to eat in, and it should be easy to do!

If I was in charge, I’d simply think about how I’d want to be treated. I can safely say that “having a bright light shone in my eyes for the duration of a meal” would not be on the list.

I’m a copywriter – I primarily write scripts. But I’m also well aware of the fact that I’m responsible for creating a superb overall customer experience on behalf of my company, which involves far more than writing a quality script… kind of like running a successful restaurant is about more than quality food.

Have you ever thought about the accidental spotlights you might be shining in your clients’ eyes that are dimming an otherwise bright customer experience? What can you do to ensure your customers see your company in the best possible light?

– Magnus

Trust me, I’m a professional…

Sometimes it can be difficult completely letting go and putting your trust in a professional service – even when you’ve parted with money for it.

For me, this is never more apparent than when I’m sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. Usually I have a rough idea of how I want my hair to look but I’m very particular about my hair so it takes a lot for me to put my trust in someone changing my ‘do. As I’m sitting nervously in the chair though, I relax a little bit when I remember that the hairdressers creating my stylish new look are professionals and they’re there to make me look my best. I know I want a full fringe and a few highlights to take me into summer, but I’m happy to accept they’re going to make me look better than I would if I hacked into my hair myself.

Trusting professionals never hurt anyone, especially Ferris Bueller

Trusting professionals never hurt anyone, especially Ferris Bueller

I’m taking a risk because I’m trusting someone to know better than I do. When we employ the professional services of those around us we’re basically paying them to know more than we do about whatever it is we want them to do.

When my kitchen sink breaks I have to trust that the nice man who’s come to fix it for me knows more than I do about plumbing. When my throat hurts I have to trust that the doctor I speak to knows more than I do about medical science. And when I order a meal I’m going to trust that the professional chefs cooking my dinner know way more about how to cook my pasta al dente than I could hope to.

It’s the same when it comes to marketing your business. You probably have a rough idea of what you want the outcome to be but what’s the point in blindly fishing around, and possibly making mistakes, when you can rely on professionals who can help you reach your goals?

Sometimes people are unsure about trusting a team of copywriters to write their on hold productions, and that doesn’t surprise me. After all, most business owners know their business inside out so it makes sense they’d know best how to explain it. But knowing how to effectively sell your business is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Here in the copywriting department, we want you to rely on our expertise. When you trust us to write your production, you’re trusting that we know how to sell your business and your products effectively… and to be honest, we do! Just like my hairdresser listens to my thoughts on what I want out of my new haircut, we’ll listen to yours on what you want from your on hold production and use our skills as professional writers to give you a production which is going to be as effective as possible. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy your fresh new look… I mean, on hold production!

– Sophie

Phone Phoneys

I recently made one of the biggest investments of my life: a high-end laptop worth over $2000. It took a significant bite out of my savings, but to this day, I don’t regret the decision one bit. It boots up in seconds, runs the latest software, has a stunning display, showcases beautiful design and is solidly built. It packs a premium price tag, but that’s okay, because it’s a premium product.

The company behind this piece of kit is famous for displaying this trend across their entire product line – leading-edge quality and stunning design. But I’m still a bit disappointed in them. Why? Because of their on hold production.

This company’s products are extremely popular, so there’s normally a build-up of callers on their phone lines, leading to pretty hefty wait times on hold. When I called their store in Perth, Western Australia, I was immediately greeted by a fuzzy, robotic voice with an American accent. “That’s okay,” I thought, as some generic, tinny music began to play. “I’ll get to the high-quality voice production promoting their innovative products next”.

Does your brand sound robotic on the phone?

Does your brand sound robotic on the phone?

The same voice killed my hope: “You are… ninth… in the queue”. It was a really unpleasant surprise that breaks the consistent branding that makes them unmistakeably who they are. Sure, outside of their on hold, they’re industry leaders and pioneers, but in terms of phone service, they’re stuck in the Dark Age. And that’s bad customer service.

It’s very disappointing when a company of this size, innovators that take pride being in pole position in the field of consumer electronics, neglect the quality of their phone service so dramatically. It’s even more shocking since there’s so much they could be promoting. Their latest phones and tablets, a groundbreaking new wireless storage device, or even the world’s thinnest desktop computer. Apparently, instead of generating more enquiries, reinforcing branding and cultivating potential add-on sales, this organisation wants a robot to point out to callers how much longer they’ll have to wait.

In other words, by taking the cheap option on hold, the company is missing out on opportunities every time someone is placed in the queue.

– Magnus

Avoid These Phrases

On Hold scripts have come a long way since I began writing them over five years ago. Every day we’re finding new ways to promote products and services even more effectively than we have before. The scripts are more creative, compelling and rich. However, with everything we know now about writing for the On Hold medium, I still see companies who insist on inserting ‘nothing phrases’.

A ‘nothing phrase’ is one that does nothing to distract the caller from the fact they’re waiting. It doesn’t help to reduce the perceived wait time and it doesn’t promote any products or services. In fact, it sometimes draws the caller’s attention to the fact that they’re waiting!

Customers Tune Out When They Hear 'Nothing Phrases'.

Customers Tune Out When They Hear ‘Nothing Phrases’.

So what are these phrases and why should you avoid them? Good question – let’s take a look at the worst offenders.

1) Thank you for holding. Being thanked by a recording is impersonal and drawing the caller’s attention to the fact they’re still holding makes the wait time seem much longer than it is.

2) Your call is important to us. Is it really? That’s the first thing the caller will think when they hear this phrase and they’ll immediately get their back up. This is not the frame of mind you want your caller in when your staff pick up the call.

3) We’ve been around for 40 years. Big deal! This is a great milestone for you but to a potential customer it means nothing. They’re focused on themselves and want to know how you’re going to help them.

4) Our friendly team delivers attentive customer service. This phrase is bad in two ways. ‘Friendly’ staff and ‘customer service’ should be a given – if not, you’re in the wrong industry.

5) A range of products to satisfy your needs & requirements. These are just plain lazy. Be specific about what need or requirement you are ‘satisfying’ and use your wait time wisely.

6) Call us. This one is self explanatory – they’ve just picked up the phone and dialed your number. It’s thoughtless and the subtext is you don’t care.

7) We appreciate your patience. Similar to number 1, this phrase is impersonal and does nothing to sell your products or take the caller’s mind off the fact they’re holding.

8) Visit our website 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s 2013 – people know how the internet works. Instead, give callers a reason to visit your website. What’s in it for them?

So there you have it, the top offenders of on hold messages. At Messages On Hold, these banned phrases are ingrained in every copywriter to ensure we use every second of an on hold production wisely. If you have an on hold message service, have a listen to your production: do you hear these phrases? If so, get rid of them! If you’re thinking about getting on hold messages installed on your phone system (and you should be!), avoid these phrases at all costs. Alternatively, give Messages On Hold a call!

– Lachy

Choosing The Right Voice Talent

I’m a news radio geek. I listen to one particular news radio station religiously. Every morning I listen to the 7.45am bulletin. I’m irritated if I miss the 5pm bulletin. It’s my thing. It was drilled into me at uni and now I can’t un-drill it. On the bright side, if I’m going to be addicted to anything, I’m glad it’s something as intellectually stimulating and painless as news radio, but I digress.

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy a particular affection for different news readers. I enjoy the dulcet tones of some of the male readers and the intellectual and pleasant reads of the females. On the whole, I tend to either like the sound of the readers’ voices or they’re so non-offensive that I barely even notice them. A voice on radio should never be the focus – the focus should be on what that voice is saying.

We could listen to this guy for hours.

We could listen to this guy for hours.

An irritating voice is an infuriating distraction. I don’t want to have to try and ignore how much I hate the way someone is reading something, I want to listen to what they’re saying!

It’s the same with your Messages On Hold production. Our diverse pool of voice over artists has been selected to offer you voices that are going to suit specific productions. We want callers to be able to listen to our productions and really hear what’s being said, rather than be distracted by the way our voice talent sounds or the way he or she says specific words.

Our studio team members are well-trained in picking which voice talent should read for a given client. For example, our voice over artist Grayton is the ideal choice for commanding and dramatic reads, whereas Fiona would be more suited to a young, happy-go-lucky type production.

In the copywriting department, we take the time to work out how tricky words like brands, surnames or places are meant to be said so they sound the way they should On Hold. We may not know how Bobinawarrah or Eromanga are pronounced, but we have clients in those areas.  You can bet their callers would be distracted if they heard their town or suburb name read incorrectly.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a Messages On Hold customer, or you’re already one, it’s always a good idea to head over to our gallery of voices. Have a listen to the voices available to find who would best suit your production.  And when you’re working with us in scripting, let us know how you’d like specific words pronounced. Don’t distract callers from your production’s content – enhance it by selecting the right voice talent!

– Sophie

Constructing From Criticism

This year I was lucky enough to be treated to dinner at one of Australia’s best restaurants. And while it wasn’t my first visit, it was the best. Surprisingly, what elevated the experience above others wasn’t the quality of the food, beverages or service. It was the fact that the restaurant team has acknowledge the single criticism that has been leveled at them in the past, and have adjusted accordingly.

Let’s rewind the clock back to my first visit. While the food, matched wines and service blew me away, the dining room was plain: with the walls, floor and ceiling all covered in shades of grey. In stark contrast to the menu, it was boring. I looked through a few reviews and noticed the same criticism popping up time and time again: “unbelievable dining, boring room”.

UnHappyCustomersNow snap back to my most recent visit. What was once a dull room has been subdivided into multiple smaller chambers using both walls and natural wood dividers, giving rooms more intimacy and warmth. Tasteful art has added colour, and even the plates on which dishes are served have been revamped to add more personality, variety and even quirky optical illusions that work with the food. I daresay it’s the only truly perfect dining experience of my life, and it’s the result of constructing from criticism.

In the Messages On Hold copywriting department, we make it easy for clients to give us the good, bad and ugly of the scripts we’ve written. It can be done by email, phone or even through social media. Plus, at the bottom of every script there’s a clear feedback form to complete, to give us a customer’s view of our work in a nutshell.

Getting a script written right the first time is a priority, much like giving a diner the perfect meal at a restaurant. We’ll go through a copy brief in depth over the phone, covering every possible component of the scripting, and even voices & music. But unlike death and taxes, a perfect script is not a certainty. What is certain is that we’ll move heaven and Earth to acknowledge any customer feedback on the scripts we write, and will do everything possible to ensure the product that ends up on a customer’s phone system is exactly what they were looking for.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Next time your business receives feedback, remember the above quote from Bill Gates, then go forth and improve your service!

– Magnus

Time For a Proofread

Here in the Message On Hold Copywriting Department, we write a lot of scripts.  We proof them personally before we submit them to be proofed by the other copywriters. Needless to say, we’re forever looking for errors in our copy.  There are a few cardinal sins… using stale phrases like ‘one-stop shop’ and ‘needs & requirements’ or mistaking ‘you’re’ for ‘your’. Proofing is where these sorts of subtle errors get picked up.

Should a mistake slip between our fine-toothed comb for one of our clients to pick up, we find a fair bit of egg on our face. If they don’t, the gentlemen in studio will, making it virtually impossible for a written typo to be recorded that, in turn, makes our clients sound foolish.

This is not a luxury you get with all marketing efforts, especially ones you do yourself. You can now make and host your own website, print out your own pamphlets and upload your own videos to the web (as mentioned in this story). If no one is looking over the copy you’re putting out there, you run the risk of public embarrassment. If you want to bottom out your credibility as fast as possible, just chuck in an obvious typo and watch your brand equity evaporate.

Typos are never fine.

Typos are never fine.

I recently found a website that contained the word ‘personalised’ in the company name yet in the ‘About Us’ section they had referred to themselves as ‘personzlied’.  ‘Personz lied’ to whoever thinks this is an acceptable public display of your brand. The easiest typos to miss are the skipped words (e.g. ‘the’, ‘that’, ‘a’). Unless you want to sound like you were raised by apes, get someone else to read over your copy… more often than not you’ll be surprised by what they find.

Take this opportunity to proof-read your website and ad material, if you catch any typos… you can thank us later.

– Jakub

Please Leave A Message After The…

“Hey, how you doin? Sorry you can’t get through, why don’t you leave your name, and your number and I’ll get back to you”

I love Voicemail. One of my favourite songs of all time was about leaving a message and one of the funniest Seinfeld moments of all time was also centred around this ingenious bit of technology. I personally am in the Costanza camp of shamelessly screening a majority of my personal calls so I’m forever grateful for that little bit extra time my voicemail allows me.

Voicemail is nothing new, it’s been around for a long while now but most people don’t realise it’s as powerful a tool for customer service as your On Hold is. Think about it, when else do you get to directly communicate with your customers without ACTUALLY communicating with your customers. And when else do you get a red hot sales lead land smack bang in your lap when someone leaves their details after the tone? Never. So it makes sense to make the most out of this simple customer service opportunity.

Here are some of the Messages On Hold Copywriting Team’s How Not To Make Your Voicemail Sound Bad and Waste Everyone’s Time tips.

Don’t Be Boring

Hello, you’ve called whatever business this is. We’re not here because it’s not working hours. Leave a message and we’ll probably get back to you eventually.

Sure I’ll leave a message, once I pull myself out of the coma that Voicemail recording put me into. You WANT your callers to leave a message, you WANT to get back to them, so let them know. Don’t be desperate, but a little excitement and an assurance of when you will actually return the call never hurt anybody.

Don’t Waste The Opportunity

Your callers are going to listen to the whole Voicemail to leave a message so let them know a bit extra about your business while you’ve got them. Even if they’re like me and they hate leaving Voicemails, give them your email address/website/Facebook page and encourage them to get in touch that way. If someone’s taken the time to pick up the phone and call you, you may as well ensure they get in touch.

Don’t Drop The Ball with your Branding…

You’ve spent the time crafting a great corporate image for your business, so let that image shine through with your Voicemails. Tell your callers proudly who they’ve called so they can be sure their message is going to get through to the right company.  Think about what information your clients are actually going to need outside of your business hours. Will they need alternative? will they need directions to your business? Will they simply need to know when you’re going to be open next? Know your clients as well as your own branding; you never know who’s going to be leaving a message.

I’ll leave you with a hilarious yet clever of Kramer’s Movie Phone IVR – he’s even worked in a short marketing message at the beginning!

– Sophie