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Corporate brochures

15. Oktober 2015

 Christlicher_garten_berlin_marzahnCorporate brochures are a major element of any company’s branding and communications. A great deal of effort goes into getting them just right. Ideally, a brochure’s language will be simple, accessible, clear and powerful – not a long list, admittedly, but one that it is deceptively difficult to deliver on. A company’s brochure is as much a key marketing platform as the company’s website or advertising. It’s a real waste if the brochure is only used to present information, products and projects. A well-executed brochure is the perfect tool for letting potential customers know that their problems are understood and solutions are at hand. For companies who want the best results, it’s always going to be worth involving experienced professionals such as copywriters, photographers, graphic artists, and, of course, professional translators.

As I’m not a designer or photographer, I’ll be limiting the focus of this blog to the aspects of producing corporate brochures that normally have an impact on me as a translator – the phrases and language commonly found in German “Imagebroschüren” and the translation solutions that work best for our clients.

The best brochures…

  • relate directly to a company’s (potential) customers
  • tell a compelling story
  • engage readers
  • maintain a consistent voice
  • contain calls to action

Not-so-great brochures…

  • are overly technical
  • say a lot about features and not so much about benefits
  • fail to build rapport
  • are not integrated with other marketing and communication channels

Common phrases

We translate a lot of corporate brochures, along with a variety of copy to be used for websites, investor relations and corporate communication. Given this fairly broad sampling, I thought I’d take a look at three of the most common phrases found in texts from German companies and explore some translation solutions and the reasoning behind them.

1. überzeugen/überzeugen durch

You won’t have to search very far to throw up hundreds of examples of this formulation. Here are just two:

“X überzeugt durch A, B and C.”

“X und Y sind … und überzeugen durch ihr A und B.”

The problem that many translators create for themselves is that they want to try and stick as rigidly to the source text as is humanly possible. “Überzeugen” typically means “convince,” “persuade,” “impress,” or even “win over.” Translators who use “convince”, which is a transitive verb in English and therefore requires an object, really aren’t doing themselves many favours. No corporate brochure written by native English speakers would contain the phrases, “X convinces with A, B and C,” or, “X and Y are … and convince with their A, B and C.” If you find any on Google, you can be pretty sure they originate from poorly translated German websites.

So, what can a translator do with these phrases? How about, “A, B and C are X’s outstanding features.” Or, “X is synonymous with A, B and C.” Or, “X and Y’s most impressive features are A and B.” Or, “X delivers/provides unparalleled A, B and C.” There are many options, all of which need to be weighed appropriately within the source text’s specific context.

2. sich auszeichnen/zeichnen sich durch etwas aus

Again a really common formulation:

“Firma/Produkt/Projekt X zeichnet sich durch A aus.”

“Ein Team, die sich auszeichnen.”

Commonly translated as “distinguishes itself through/with/via,” or, “is distinguished/characterised by,” or, “stands out due to.” In this case it is the German verb that is reflexive, whereas this feature can easily be avoided in any translation.

Similar problems exist here as in the 1. above – the translations you often come across are generally fairly clunky, inelegant and unnatural. So, what are some other options? It might be worth considering, “Company/Product/Project X is A,” or, “A is what defines Company/Product/Project X,” or, “X excels/excels at Y.” You could also use some of the solutions provided for 1. if the context fits.

3. etwas abdecken

“Abdecken” is typically used in connection with covering something, e.g. a table, bed, etc, or protecting something, e.g. household insurance, a privacy policy, etc. However, when it comes to corporate brochures (and websites), you’ll often come across sentences such as:

“Firma X deckt Markt-Y ab.”

“Die Kompetenzen von X GmbH decken Y ab.”

Again, depending on your specific context, alternatives to using “cover” could include, “Company X supplies the entire Y market,” or, “X’s skills/expertise encompass Y,” or, “X’s skills/expertise address all aspects of Y,” or, “X offers the widest range of Y.”

If you represent a German company and you want your next English-language corporate brochure to have more of an impact, contact us!

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