Blog post dated Feb 10, 2020

What Distinguishes Marketing Translations from "Normal" Translations?

"Just because a company dedicates hundreds of millions of dollars to international advertising doesn't mean that it uses competent translators", wrote author Laura Stampler in "Business Insider" back in 2012.

There are plenty of articles about "funny" translation errors in international marketing campaigns—well, funny perhaps to you, but surely not to the affected companies.

An Article by

Flurina Schwendimann
Freelance Translator

Such translation blunders hurt the corporate image and cause high costs.

Yet, avoiding such errors merely accounts for a fraction of what marketing managers need to take into consideration when getting prepped for new target countries. The main issue is to make sure that products and services are positioned in such a way that the needs and expectations of customers and other stakeholders are duly addressed. Various contents need to be delivered to the right target groups in various ways.

To gain the trust of the customers, the texts should be free of spelling and grammar errors and be easy to understand and consistent in their wording. Marketing texts must be creative and more flexible in their style than other translations.

For this reason, marketing texts are often not merely translated, but rather localized or transcreated, i.e. they are adapted in a way that is understandable and conducive to their purpose in the respective target regions.

The texts should be free of spelling and grammar errors and be easy to understand and consistent in their wording.

In the localization process, the campaign content remains largely unchanged. However, the text is adapted to local conventions. Images and symbols, for example, are aligned with local expectations. Contact details, business hours, measurement units, currencies, seasons, and holidays also need to be taken into consideration. For example, when questions arise, a potential customer based in Germany will hardly be willing to call a US telephone number outside his time zone. Furthermore, the potential customer will look for price information in his currency.

By means of transcreation, the content is fine-tuned to the local market. Transcreation is a sophisticated procedure that often delivers an entirely different text. It is similar to conventional copyrighting and is mainly used for slogans and advertising.

Which Marketing Texts Should Be Translated?

  • Product and company descriptions, offers
  • Websites, landing pages, news, and product announcements
  • Texts, images, and multimedia content for web shops and marketplaces
  • Advisor content, e-books, blog posts, customer magazines, newsletters with links
  • Customer feedback and ratings as the basis for improvement and recommendation marketing
  • Financial reports
  • Posts in social networks

SEO and Marketing Translations: Things to Watch Out for

In many cases, a company's website is the first touchpoint of the customer journey. For the (potential) customer to find the page, it must of course be optimized for search engines. This is one of the basic duties of the marketing team in the company.

The usual approach for the translation of marketing texts for the website often neglects the search engine optimization (SEO) in the target country. For instance, the process could be as follows: The content creator of a company writes a marketing text and optimizes it for the search engine in the target country. Usually, a text is only optimized for Google, as this is the search engine through which most of the traffic is generated. So far so good. Subsequently, the text is translated, reviewed, and uploaded to the website. Multilingual website? Yep. Good ranking achieved in the target country? Well ... no!

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If keywords are not carefully selected for the translation or if they are translated "blindly", the target text will not be search-engine-optimized and will thus achieve a poor ranking. As the keywords can be different in every country, research should be conducted in the target market. For example, a textile company may decide to use the keyword "jumper" instead of "sweater" for the UK market. Depending on the target country, the translations should also be optimized for search engines not common in Europe, the UK, and the US (e.g. Yandex in Russia or Baidoo in China).

Three Steps to Find the Right Keywords

  • Translate your most frequently used keywords as well as their synonyms in order to maximize the catchment area.
  • Research the keywords of your local competitors with tools such as SEMrush or the Google Keyword Planner.
  • Compare the popularity of your keywords with that of your competitors' keywords and select the most relevant keywords.

Machine Translation—Is it for Marketing Texts?

As already mentioned, a marketing translation is usually more than a "mere" transformation of information from language A to language B. Thus, more is expected from marketing translators: They need to be creative, eloquent, and keenly aware of the cultural circumstances in the target country. Therefore, it is not advisable to machine-translate marketing texts. Common MT tools are often unable to handle intricacies such as puns in slogans. This can result in misinterpretation that can harm the reputation of the company and its products.

A possible option could be the use of an individualized translation engine, i.e. a machine translation system that has been trained with the company's translation memories and corporate terminology. The article "Machine Translation for Companies" explains the challenges associated with the introduction of machine translation and shows what requirements need to be met in order to ensure success.

The use of MT can result in misinterpretation that can harm the reputation of the company and its products.

Benefits of Translation Management Systems for Marketing Translations

The deployment of a translation management system (TMS) is recommended in order to enable marketing managers in enterprises that operate on an international scale to master their multi-faceted duties. The TMS is a centralized platform for creating, delegating, and finishing translation orders. It represents the link between the customer, translation service providers, freelance translators, terminologists, reviewers, and correctors.

Its central components are a customer-specific translation memory, a terminology database, and a translation tool. In addition, a TMS offers translation management and quality assurance features.

The open architecture of a TMS also enables the connection of various systems via interfaces, e.g. for content management, product information management, machine translation, or authoring assistance. In this way, a contiguous process chain can be set up for seamless data exchange.

The white paper "The Principle of Translation Management Systems" draws attention to the features and benefits of modern translation management systems.

White Paper
Successfully Translating Marketing Content

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