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Why Marketing Translation Matters, and How to Get it Right

marketing translation by via olaussen

It is a must to invest in top-notch marketing that resonates with the target audience when expanding your business internationally. The first step to doing that is to communicate with them in the local language through careful translations of your marketing content.

However, marketing translation and localization can be demanding pursuits, especially when your company is trying to break into multiple new markets.

Are there ways to overcome the inevitable challenges of scaling for global marketing? How can you optimize your business resources for the best results when translating marketing copy? Let’s find out.


What is marketing translation?

what is marketing translation

As implied, marketing translation refers to the process of adapting marketing content from one language to another. This involves translating various types of advertising copy on both online and offline distribution channels, including:

  • Landing pages
  • Blog content
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Product descriptions
  • Emails
  • Banners
  • Brochures
  • Billboards
  • Infographics
  • eBooks

In other words, marketing content comes in many forms, but you want to make sure that the branding voice and message remain consistent across all touchpoints to create a cohesive brand identity.

While the same principle applies to multilingual campaigns, adapting marketing content for other cultures calls for more nuanced adjustments.

Keeping this in mind, your business should not approach global marketing efforts as an extension of your domestic marketing strategy. Instead, you should customize the campaigns to the preferences of local audiences in the target markets. Translating marketing materials into the local language is a great place to start.


Why translation matters in global marketing

They say that with marketing, you sell a feeling rather than a product. You want the target audience to feel like you made the product for them. When that audience is from a different language and culture, a shift in mindset is required.

From a business perspective, you might ask yourself why the translation of marketing content is so important. After all, English is the most spoken language globally, with more than 1.5 billion native and non-native speakers.

When you can reach a demographic as large as 1 in 7 of the world’s population just using English, it may be tempting to standardize your marketing material. Doing so will save money, time, and resources as you can sell the same products and adopt the same advertising strategies across markets. No need for a costly localization budget - easy choice, right?

Well, not really. Nelson Mandela said it best: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

In the world of marketing, language is not just the way to consumers’ hearts, but also their wallets. The latest translation statistics show that:

why is marketing translation important
  • 75% of consumers prefer to buy from websites in their native language.
  • 40% of internet users will only buy from websites in their native language.
  • 65% of non-native English speakers prefer content in their native language, despite their high proficiency in English.

Businesses that rely on English as the marketing lingua franca will therefore miss out on a huge portion of online shoppers.

Moreover, customer preference for language is one thing, but there are also other factors that come to play when translating marketing materials.

How is marketing translation different?

Word-for-word translations may work just fine for technical texts like safety manuals, maintenance guides, legal contracts, and medical journals.

The information in such documents is less open to interpretation. More importantly, the reader expects clarity and accuracy.  Therefore, such technical types of translations should preserve the structure and meaning of the source text as much as possible.

Marketing translation, however, requires a different approach. As mentioned earlier, marketing content is designed to

  1. Influence purchase intent through conveying feelings rather than fulfilling a practical purpose.
  2. Attract consumers to your brand with positive messages tailored to their preferences.

As the audience changes, so do the characteristics of the marketing assets. Obviously, this is true of any target audience and not just across multilingual markets.

However, the translation of marketing materials should go beyond linguistic accuracy to consider aspects like:

things to consider in translation marketing
  • Product representation
  • Images, symbols, and colors
  • Humor and jokes
  • Idioms and metaphors
  • Local keyword usage
  • Searchability of terminology
  • Slang and linguistic conventions
  • Generational differences

The level of localization required will, however, depend on your business goals and capabilities. We discussed this in more detail in our last piece on global content marketing strategy.

In any case, striking a balance between brand consistency and localization is a key dilemma faced by global marketers when it comes to marketing translations. Depending on the extent to which you want to localize your branding voice and message, there are three different approaches your business may take.

Differences between translation, transcreation and localization

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of marketing translation and localization, but what about transcreation?

Translation, localization, and transcreation are all professional language services employed in various ways by businesses expanding overseas. Although they differ in both definition and practice, they are often used interchangeably.

However, the three are not necessarily mutually exclusive and your business may make use of all of these approaches at some point as part of your expansion marketing strategy. If you are wondering when you need one over the other, here is an overview of the main differences between them:

differences between translation, transcreation, and localization
Term Definition How It Works
Marketing Translation The adaptation of copy and other types of marketing source texts from one language to another. Minimal changes are made to the wording, structure, and meaning of the text to fit with the appropriate style and register of the target language. Usually only requires hiring translators. 
Transcreation All types of marketing campaign materials (including copy, product names, slogans, and visuals) are either remade completely or reimagined from the original to fit the target audience in the new market. Also referred to as creative or adaptive translation. Significant changes may be made to wording and structure, while preserving the message, feeling and impact of the source text. Usually involves hiring professional copywriters.
Localization All aspects of the marketing campaigns are adapted to fit consumer preferences in the target markets, including cultural nuances, linguistic conventions, distribution channels, visuals, website layout, and more.  The extent of the changes may vary depending on locales. The message often remains the same with adjustments to fit the culture of the target language. Both translators and copywriters may be hired depending on business needs.

Examples of translation in international marketing campaigns

Now, let’s look at some good and bad examples of how the approaches have worked in practice. Hopefully, this will help guide your choice of strategy for adapting marketing assets into other languages.

examples of campaigns in translation, transcreation, and localization

Marketing Translation Example: HSBC Bank

There are many examples of companies where direct translations of their marketing catchphrases have sufficed. HSBC is not one of them, to say the least.

In 2009, the bank had to spend $10 million on a costly global rebranding campaign when its catchprase “Assume Nothing” was translated directly in some languages, without paying sufficient attention to meaning and cultural context.

Instead of conveying that the bank makes no assumptions about its customers, the translated version of the slogan came out as “Do Nothing.” Basically, exactly the last message a bank would want to communicate to its customers in the middle of a major financial crisis.

Transcreation Example: McDonalds

The famous slogan of the American fast food retailer - “I’m Lovin’ It” - has been known across the world since its launch in 2003. In countries with high English proficiency that are culturally similar to the US, they simply use it in its native form.

However, this would be less acceptable in countries like China or Spain, where the word “love” carries a much heavier connotation.

Instead, “I’m lovin’ it” became:

As you can see, McDonalds used transcreation to change its marketing in a way that was more palatable to Spanish and Chinese ears - and were much better off for it.

Localization Example: Slack

The work messaging platform, Slack, has the majority of its user base outside its native US. With a dedicated localization team that provides direction on how to appeal to non-US users, the app is currently available in 11 different languages. Recognizing that localization goes beyond language, Slack is full of cultural references, anecdotes, idioms, and even emoji names that make the product experience familiar for local users.

Slack’s localization approach extends to its marketing materials. Consider the differences between its social media ads for Japanese and global audiences, as seen in the two pictures below.

example of slack marketing campaign in japanese

The Slack ad in Japanese, as seen on Facebook, focuses on displaying how actual, local people in the country communicate when working remotely using the platform.

example of slack global campaign in english

In comparison, the global ad on LinkedIn shows a more diverse cast of characters with a message in English that emphasizes Slack as a digital HQ enabling communication across borders.

There will be pros and cons no matter which of the three approaches your business decides to take in adapting its marketing materials for international audiences.

After all, translation is a growing industry, rife with both opportunities and challenges. Fortunately, being aware of what those are can help you find the right approach to optimizing available resources to alleviate problems.

Opportunities and challenges of marketing translation

The translation market has doubled in size in the past ten years and the growth trend is not projected to slow down any time soon.

Along with it, we have seen an exploding demand for language services as more companies expand their operations overseas. You know how it goes: demand increases supply and vice versa.

Now, marketing teams in global businesses like yours are able to expand the reach of their campaigns in a digital marketplace. Not only that, you now have access to a vast amount of resources with linguists and translators available at the drop of a hat, whenever and wherever you need them.

This wide availability of marketing translation services has brought with it many opportunities for business growth, including:

opportunities when you translate your marketing content
  1. Market access: There are over 1 billion internet users in China, and it goes without saying that gaining access to such a vast market of online shoppers would be beneficial to your business sales potential. That will, in turn, require translating your marketing content into Chinese.
  2. Competitive advantage: Most companies will rely on some form of translation and localization when bringing their products and services to overseas markets, but not all will get it right. Paying sufficient attention to the quality of your translations, and the efficiency of your translation workflow, will be sure to get you one step ahead.
  3. Improved reputation: Consumers like to be seen, and one way to make them feel good about your products is to speak directly to them. Again, here is where your carefully translated marketing message comes into play.
  4. Increased trust and brand recognition: When the message is delivered to the audience in their own language and coupled with a purchase experience that appears familiar, the company automatically seems like one to trust.

However, as more companies go global and the demand for professional translation services surges, competition grows with it. That means high–quality marketing is not only encouraged, but expected from an increasingly picky audience.

The process of translating your marketing messages is not just a one-and-done operation, but one that is constantly evolving as your business scales. If you don’t have efficient systems in place as your workload grows, you may find yourself faced with a number of challenges like:

challenges of marketing translation
  • Exhausting business resources
  • Collaborating smoothly across projects and teams
  • Finding an efficient workflow
  • Maintaining consistency in branding and message
  • Increasing cost (including opportunity costs!)
  • Experiencing delays in time-to-market
  • Tracking progress of multiple projects

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to alleviate these problems, so let’s get right into it.

Seven useful tips for translating marketing content

This section looks at the ways your team can cope with the inevitable challenges that come with marketing translation. Here’s what we recommend you to do:

tips for translating marketing content

1. Get an overview of your existing business resources

Many businesses will outsource their translation efforts by hiring external vendors and agencies to take care of the process of adapting their marketing assets. Often this is done to cope with the expected workload of managing and coordinating localization projects.

While that is a good option, it is probably not necessary as you most likely already have all the resources needed to coordinate the translation process within your company.

You know your company best, so consider how you can optimize your existing resources in the translation process. By this, we mean your team of co-workers and partners around the globe with the skills and knowledge to make your localization project a success:

  • Project managers
  • Marketing specialists
  • Designers
  • Developers
  • Copywriters
  • Translators
  • Editors
  • Proofreaders
  • External vendors
The only thing you may lack is an efficient system in place to help you coordinate the process. With the right solution in place - such as a translation management system - to bring everyone on the same platform, you will be well on your way to success in marketing translation.

2. Scout for multitalented translators and copywriters

Hiring the right translators and copywriters to aid your marketing localization can take a lot of time and effort. As already mentioned earlier, adapting marketing assets is a craft that requires more than a literal exchange of words from one language to another. That makes copywriting a key part of marketing translation.

Hence, no matter if you want to transcreate or localize, you are going to need professional marketing translators and copywriters with knowledge of the local culture. Finding the right talent who can master linguistic accuracy and at the same time write copy that sells will be the point that makes or breaks your strategy.

Check out our list of places to find translators.

3. Streamline your workflow for better collaboration across teams

Once you have found the right people, it can be challenging for everyone to be on the same page with a team of co-workers spread out across the globe. Without a reliable way to communicate and collaborate on tasks, you risk:

  • Causing unnecessary stress
  • Decreasing productivity
  • Inconsistencies in messaging

You want your translation process to flow smoothly. More specifically, you want everyone to stay on top of every project update to reduce unnecessary revisions and prolonged communications.

Redokun offers an all-in-one solution that brings your team together to collaborate on tasks. In a single workspace, your team can:

  • Manage projects and assign texts
  • Translate texts with translation aids
  • Implement revisions to a project in all its target languages
  • Leave comments for your teammates
  • Save approved translations for future use
  • Retain the document styles and design of original source texts

4. Improve productivity with computer-assisted translation tools (CAT)

Tools that use machine translation to instantly translate texts have a bad reputation. If you ever used Google Translate and got a less than stellar result, you will know why.

While this may change in the future with technological advances in machine learning, CAT tools are currently not at the same level as human translators. So it is inevitable that translations need a human touch to sound natural.

That being said, a little automation won’t hurt anyone. In fact, your translators may even be all the better for it because it helps them:

  • Pre-translate large amounts of texts
  • Get suggestions for how to translate a segment when they are stuck
  • Instantly fill up sections of a document with translations

As the next step, the translator can simply proofread and change the text to sound more natural in the target language. Easy peasy.

5. Maintain consistency with translation memories

Translation memories are another great feature of translation software. With a database of all approved translations for your projects (that’s automatically generated), there is no need to translate the same text multiple times when they appear in subsequent projects

As mentioned earlier, marketing materials rely on that all-important consistency in branding.

Translation memories allows your translators to increase their productivity by up to 60% while they’re using the translation software. The tool pulls up matching parts from previously translated segments in past projects. This allows your translator to:

  • Retain consistency in style and register
  • Increase linguistic accuracy
  • Avoid human error
  • Reduce manual time spent looking for previous translations
CAT tools like translation memories help your writers and translators create great copy in cost-efficient ways. Redokun is one such platform that integrates these features and more in its all-in-one solution.

6. Speed up time to market with versatile file formats

There are many steps involved in a translation workflow, even after the translations for one project have been completed. That includes optimizing the design and visuals of your marketing materials before publishing.

Relying on manual operations to adapt your finished material for publication will slow down your time-to-market. This increases not only direct costs, but also opportunity costs as it takes even more time to reach your localization ROI.

With a workflow that automatically edits and updates your documents for you as they get translated from the base language to the target language, all that work can be avoided.

To find out how you can adapt marketing materials easily across file formats, check out these articles on how to translate:

7. Track progress and revise as you go along

Many localization projects rely on infinite cycles of copy-pasting and back-and-forth emails to keep everyone up to speed on how everything is going. That does not make for easy progress tracking, especially not as translation and localization needs grow as marketing scales.

With a professional translation tool, you can:

  • Assign tasks to internal and external translators
  • Set deadlines
  • Track the progress of assignments

All of the above in one integrated dashboard. There really is no easier way to see how your team is faring with meeting your localization KPIs.

How to get marketing translation right

While this may seem contradictory to the title, there really is no single way to get it right when it comes to marketing translation. The path you eventually take will depend on many factors, including the goals of your business and the challenges you may face breaking into the target markets.

We’re not going to lie, marketing translation is a lot of work, and the work never truly ends as your business extends its marketing across more and more markets. But the rewards are even greater.

If you want to experience for yourself how adopting a translation management system can enhance your workflow in cost-effective ways, check out Redokun. If you decide to go for our 14-day free trial, know that it is completely free of commitments and requests for payment details.

Whether you decide to go for our solution or another is up to you, but we hope that this guide will help you on the path to success.

Till next time,


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