Localising pharma content: How not to get lost in translation
If you have ever tried to localise marketing or sales materials, “complexity” might be one word that comes to mind. In pharma, companies use a global-to-local system in which ’master’ campaign materials are provided to local countries for adaptation. This process involves many participants — global brand managers, global agencies, local agencies, and local brand managers — and can get complex if the process isn't managed efficiently.
With ever-increasing digital marketing assets, pharma companies are looking to optimise localisation and speed time-to-market. The good news is that with the right processes, everything can go smoothly — aided by new technologies and processes that meet the demands of the digital world.
Use a digital asset management (DAM) system
In the past, one of the biggest challenges when localising content was that countries worked with multiple systems and used different content formats. This multi-platform approach was inconvenient and added unnecessary complexity and extra steps to the process. It also locked companies into agency relationships because they didn’t have easy access to the files. Consequently, pharma companies are now connecting their organisations with a shared digital asset management (DAM) platform, e.g. Veeva Vault. With a DAM solution, you can streamline processes and maintain control over creative assets:
All brand materials and marketing assets are stored in one place
Local offices can access the approved content and be sure they are using the latest versions
No need to worry about changing agencies — source files stay in a protected and safe environment.
If you only do one thing to simplify localisation, we’d recommend implementing a DAM solution. Secure digital asset management that makes content accessible in all markets provides a foundation from which you can build more efficient processes and systems.
Boost your DAM with a content-building tool
If you have a DAM solution, you can optimise it with a content management system. For example, Activator (Anthill's own product) deeply integrates with Veeva Vault — keeping your content secure. But it makes accessing and working with this content much easier. For localisation specifically, Activator enables you to track content adaption and translation across markets and provides localisation tools that simplify and clarify the process for affiliates.
For example, Activator makes it possible to compare local and global content with a 'side-by-side' view — showing the global master and localisation simultaneously — so reviewers can quickly compare the two. Now, rather than dealing with multiple documents, everything is viewed from within Activator — and presented clearly.
Another relevant feature for localisation is the side-by-side translation review. This lets people see the original 'master' text and the translation on the same screen — simplifying the translation process while providing a helpful comparison of text lengths, which change significantly across languages.
Switch to modular content
Another localisation-speeding development is modular content. This is a new approach to asset creation. Instead of creating individual assets one after another, modular content is a system you establish first and then use to create assets for any channel. It functions like ‘building blocks’. Each block — or module — provides a complete and fully-referenced mini-story, which can be combined with other modules as required.
The benefit of modular content for localisation is the efficiency it brings. Modules are created and approved once but reused multiple times in different channels. Once the module is localised, affiliates can use it to build whatever they want — with only 'light' local approval required because modules come fully referenced and pre-approved.
This approach fundamentally changes the content supply chain, simplifying localisation for everyone. Global brand teams no longer have to oversee an asset replication process across all markets. Instead, they concentrate on creating the right building blocks, and affiliates focus on assembling them into content that works best for their market. The result is that marketing assets are produced much faster — more content with the same resources.
Don’t forget the human factors
While new technologies have a huge role, efficient localisation ultimately depends on people working together effectively. At Anthill, we plan for what we call the human factor. This is a belief that technology can never work optimally until you take account of everyone — internally and externally — that it touches upon. For pharma localisation, this means clear communication and providing your content in an actionable way.
Provide campaign toolkits: One way to speed localisation is to account for affiliate needs regarding how content is provided. A 'campaign toolkit' is an easy-to-navigate collection of your brand materials with all assets, source files and references clearly classified (e.g. text, images, animation) and available in one place.
Specify agency tasks: Agree on your localisation requirements upfront, e.g. source files, formats and reference lists. Agencies will appreciate the clarity, knowing that it avoids surprises later and ensures that everything stays on track — saving time and money while avoiding duplicating work in the future.
Communicate the vision: Adapting messages from one language to another while navigating cultural nuances is already a big challenge, so ensure that brand managers clearly understand your goals and strategy. Articulate your expectations, the KPIs that measure success, and the results you expect the initiative to achieve.
Implement a content excellence process
As you can see, companies are solving localisation complexity by revisiting the overall content supply chain and rethinking processes that are no longer fit for purpose. DAM optimisation, content management tools and modular content are just parts of a new drive by pharma companies to re-engineer outdated content supply chains. This process is called ‘content excellence’.
Current practices were established years ago when assets were usually paper-based and far fewer in number. While digital channels and assets have transformed pharma marketing, the supporting system remains unchanged. Consequently, bottlenecks appeared — with MLR review, content distribution and localisation all impacted. Colleagues are battling escalating demands and struggling to ensure assets reach the market promptly. And now, with the introduction of omnichannel marketing, these demands are increasing because personalised engagement strategies require more content.
A content excellence process takes a step back, reviews the whole content supply chain, and implements new procedures. This approach accounts for multiple factors, which include production models, stakeholder roles, organisational issues, technology requirements, and content flows through your organisation. The good news is that better — digital-first — models have emerged that can be quickly adapted to your organisation. And by targeting specific 'chokepoints', you can make precision interventions that unblock your overall content supply chain.
How can we help?
There are many ways to speed up pharma content localisation. For example, you can address the 'human factors' with clear communication and helpful brand toolkits that make life easier for affiliates. You can establish or optimise your DAM solution. Or introduce modular content. Perhaps you want to implement a ‘content excellence’ process — providing a solution that benefits all your brands and markets.
Content excellence: learn how we partner with pharma companies to implement fast and flexible content creation systems. Learn more Modular content: explore how we enable you to implement modular content to reduce asset time-to-market. Learn more Anthill Activator: discover how Activator can turbo-charge your Veeva Vault solution and simplify localisation. Learn more
Pharma marketing guide: read our in-depth guide to pharma marketing technology, strategy and content. Read now Modular content guide: get the full explanation of modular content with a clear definition, use cases, and actionable insights. Read now
As pharma marketing becomes ever more digital, the way that we create content is changing. In the past, everyone focused on individual assets. Now, forward-thinking companies work with ‘design systems' to unlock digital technology's scalability.