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Copy adaptation: Creating content for every target audience

Published on April 22nd, 2019

copy adaptation

Today’s brands reach out to a wide range of target audiences and each of these has unique needs and expectations. In many cases, these audiences may even speak different languages and this means brands need to adapt their copy, content and marketing messages to resonate with each group.

Copy adaptation is a crucial part of this, where the same piece of content is tweaked to match the unique needs of each audience. In this article, we are going to explain what copy adaptation is in more detail and where it fits into a language strategy alongside translation and localisation.

What is copy adaptation and why does it matter?

Imagine you have created an ad campaign for a new product and you know exactly what kind of message you want to get across to people. A good example might be a new iPhone release where Apple focuses on a diverse variety of people using the device in their everyday lives.

The general message is that the iPhone is a way to connect with other people and enrich the time they spend alone with music, social media and their favourite apps.

While the overall message might stay the same for every target market, the copy involved in these ads could be changed for a number of reasons:

  • Direct translation does not work
  • Certain phrases or references are culturally insensitive
  • Certain phrases or references are not culturally relevant
  • Different selling points have been highlighted in certain audiences
  • Certain audiences use the same products in different ways
  • Social conventions differ in certain markets
  • Legal requirements vary in certain markets

A common example might be an ad that relies on sexual innuendo or something that could be deemed inappropriate in certain markets. Even certain luxury chocolate ads here in the UK could be deemed too sexualised in some regions. So you still want to get across the same general message – i.e. a moment of indulgence – but the specific copy of the ad might need to change for certain markets.

In this case, you want to find a more culturally relevant comparison for a moment of indulgence and make this the focus of your copy.

Not all scenarios are quite so obvious, though. Let us go back to the idea of an iPhone here where the use of social media platforms will vary in different markets. For example, users in China are going to be using WeChat, Weibo and TenCent instead of Facebook. WeChat is also a major payment app in China and cash has all but disappeared in Chinese society, meaning people are paying for goods, publish transport and a wide range of services with their phone.

This would need to reflect in the ad copy, imagery and video for ad campaigns for mobile technology in China.

Copy adaptation vs localisation

Copy adaptation is very similar to another kind of language service called localisation. In fact, the two practices overlap at various points, making it difficult to explicitly define and separate the two – so what is the difference?

Well, as the name suggests, copy adaptation focuses purely on the copy of any piece of content. These are the written words that are designed to influence people’s buying decisions and this kind of copy is found everywhere from ads and website pages to product listings and billboards.

Localisation does not focus only on copy; it can involve visual content, language, layouts, code and even the physical design of products – anything that needs adapting for local markets. Likewise, copy adaptation always works to adapt the same piece of copy for multiple audiences while localisation may (or may not) involve creating different versions of the same things for different markets.

For example, a video game may have content removed, added or edited for certain audience whereas copy adaptation would simply tweak the same piece of content.

In terms of a complete localisation strategy, copy adaptation is often one part of this process but the two are separately definable. It is kind of like an engine can be part of a car, a motorbike or a lawnmower and it is still always an engine in its own right.

The trick is knowing which specific language services each of your project requires.

If you need more information about adapting your advertising campaigns or content for different markets, get in touch with our marketing team and language experts for advice on the right kind of strategy for your business.

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Posted on: April 22nd, 2019