Terminology Management: Ensuring a Consistent Brand When Protecting IP Overseas

Hand holding a rising arrow, representing business growth.Name most any successful business and the brand behind it springs to mind, whether Coca-Cola’s white wave across its adverts, bottles and cans, or McDonald’s yellow arches. Logos, as well as slogans, messages and corporate (or industry) terminology used through the years, helps keep that brand consistent and top of mind. Any inaccuracies or inconsistencies are easily recognizable and can dilute or even damage a brand if allowed to continue.

If you’re one of those multinational enterprises – or aiming to be – how do you keep track of your brand and messaging? You most likely use a style guide, where you designate specific guidelines for brand usage and a glossary that defines the specialized jargon unique to your industry and company so you can communicate the meaning of each word or phrase clearly and consistently.

Now add multiple translations into the mix and everything – especially terminology – gets even more complicated. So how do you manage all the terms and their branded translations? Terminology management technology streamlines the process and ensures that trademarked items, acronyms, trade language and other frequently used words are consistently translated into agreed-upon terms in target languages and regional dialects. This is especially critical since brands, trade and technical terms can rarely be translated literally, and each translator will make different interpretations and usually end up with different translations. Brands may lose their impact through the course of translation, and using the wrong word or phrase also can lead to misinterpretation and to a company showcasing itself as a “foreigner” in that particular market.


A Case for Terminology Management

A North American fondue restaurant franchise found out just how essential terminology management can be when it expanded into Mexico in 2010. A translation service provider previously translated its kitchen training materials into Spanish, specifically for the restaurant’s Spanish-speaking employees in the United States who originally came from various Latin American countries. Company executives thought the Spanish they were currently using would be sufficient for the menu and other materials to be used in Mexico. When the Mexican franchise owners visited the company’s U.S. headquarters, it quickly became clear that one dialect of Spanish is not always the same as another. Different countries have their own dialect with words and phrases unique to each culture.

The restaurant easily resolved the issue by having a translation service provider create a glossary of terms with their translations for the Mexican locations. When applied to a terminology management database, the terms are automatically inserted into translations to ensure accuracy and consistency. In the end, the restaurant used the same basic language for both locations, but with country-specific terms included. It was also able to continually add new terms to the database automatically when translating new words or phrases.


How to Get Started

  1. Build a glossary: Similar to a style guide you use for your brand, a glossary ensures that brand messaging, trade terminology, acronyms, etc. are consistently translated without having to re-invent the wheel each time. Research and review of all of your documents (including patents and communications such as instructional, educational and marketing materials) to find frequently used terms relevant to your industry and your particular vernacular. This research and review stage is a continuing process for most companies. If you only review once, your glossary can eventually become stagnant and irrelevant. By approaching terminology research and review as an ongoing practice, your brand remains vibrant and strong.
  1. Agree on Translations: Consult with your translation service provider(s) to determine the proper terms in each language for which you need translations. When reviewing terminology for translation in multiple languages or even multiple locations, be sure to work with local experts to ensure the terminology is accurately understood and translated. This can be especially important when preparing for patent translations, which are far more difficult to correct after being filed.
  1. Apply to Translation Projects: Once the glossary is established, you can implement the terminology management software so translators can apply it directly to a variety of translation projects – everything from brand messaging to technical patent applications. You’ll ensure regional and technical accuracy in a timely fashion, and be able to use a variety of translators while still enjoying consistency across all materials. You’ll also be able to capture new terms and translations as they are used.

Paying careful attention to how your company’s terminology – and overall messages – will be perceived in each country will eliminate confusion and even offense. On the technical side, managing translation of specific terms can also reduce the risk of invalidating a patent, which can be the result of even one wrong word used in the patent filings. Ensure the quality of writing and messaging in every company communication is at its peak. Likewise, by using a strong terminology management system and quality translators, you can significantly increase the chances for consistency and accuracy in each translation worldwide.


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