Translation as a key asset for success in a multinational marketing strategy

Making the case for company and brand content adaptation when reaching international audiences.

According to the American Marketing Association, localizing content is key to a company internationalization strategy. Why? For very concrete reasons: it can make or break a company’s success abroad, distinguishing brands that communicate effectively with international markets from other brands that remain foreign and inaccessible; and it increases sales in the target markets, with clear ROI from translation and localization efforts, directly impacting their bottom line.

Translators are not only expert in the language of the market you want to approach, but accomplished cultural experts as well. So, by making the smart choice, what do you get in return?

  1. Human translation (as opposed to machine translation) of your contents based on logic, sense, target audience, goals to achieve (marketing translation, transcreation, legal or technical translation), avoiding missteps in terms of culture, laws and regulations, competitive landscape. In fact, 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language, while 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites (“Can’t read, won’t buy”, 2014 survey by Common Sense Advisory).
  2. Review, editing and proofreading of existing or translated contents in the target language to avoid repetitions, look for inconsistencies, bring consistency among channels and materials, pick up any mistakes or inappropriate contents in view of the target country or audience. It is also the last chance to avoid mistakes that can cost you dearly.

* TIP Thoroughly edit your copy before translating it into the languages relevant for your markets. By working once on the original text and solving inconsistencies or other errors at source, you won’t have to do it again for all the languages of your markets.

  1. Replicate your brand tone of voice into another language, adapting it to the local culture, habits and way of thinking while keeping its core nature and personality alive. By creating a local brand language unique to your company/brand/product, these will stand out from the competition and be easily recognizable by your audience or potential targets.

* TIP Think about producing a company or brand style guide, with local versions for every language you communicate in. This is not just for lifestyle brands. Last year I worked on the Italian style guide of a US forklift manufacturer, so quite technical literature: they are present on the EU market and from the start they decided to communicate professionally in the language of their customers. Having a style guide shared by their marketing translators, technical editors and local management helps them speak in a coherent voice, avoiding technical mistakes in their materials, and ensuring customers get a consistent message along all the brand touch points and across all channels. A style guide can also help you streamline the development of documents, producing original contents easier to localize, as said above. Consistency generates trustworthiness and confidence in your business.

Some translators are also marketing experts, copywriters, image researchers or content curators, and can help you further with choosing the right images to communicate your brand in the new market or with curating contents for your social channels, just to make a couple of examples.

Choosing to localize your contents while approaching a new market is a smart choice to get the maximum return on your investment, in terms of brand and company engagement, brand or product recognition, brand awareness, brand reputation and competitive advantage.

* TIP Use your sales and marketing data to pinpoint your language/translation needs, identifying opportunities to provide a better service to existing clients, or to start a relationship with clients from new markets and countries on the right foot. In 2015, Starwood Hotels & Resorts took up this approach, abandoning a strategy of translating all of their websites into 4 set languages, irrespective of their performance: based on their sales data and the insights gained from them, they reinvested the translation budget in languages that showed more promise at local level. The result? The company invested USD 600,000 in translation and gained about USD 45M from additional guests.

Which contents should have priority? Again according to AMA, the top 5 types of content that companies are localizing are their website, social media, digital, video and technical information. The most successful localization efforts cover these crucial digital marketing channels and the essential steps of the buyer’s journey on the website.

But as Common Sense Advisory found out, regardless of industry or target market, companies allot just 0.2% of their resources to translation. While of course we advocate increased budgets for this key asset, it is also a case of understanding what to translate for which audiences or countries. It is not a matter of all or nothing: as seen with the example above, exploit your data to help you identify which contents would be the most worthwhile to translate in view of your target audience or goals.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by the UK translation agency TechTrans, as quoted by, 90% of internet users in the EU claim that, when given a choice of languages, they always choose to visit a website in their own language.

As a company, you can’t afford to make plans without taking into account your competitive landscape. If your competitors already adapted their contents for the local market, you can’t do otherwise. On the other hand, if this is not the case, you could gain a significant competitive edge by being the first to do so in your business line.

In 2016 only 10% of English websites were translated into Italian: this gives you an idea of the potential which is still out there. Would you like to approach the Italian market the right way? See what I can do for you and let’s take it from there.


About the author
laura-cattaneoI am an Italian specialist in marketing, creative and legal translation and editing. I put my many years of experience to the advantage of my clients by creating texts resonating with the Italian-speaking audience and making brands locally relevant. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter or visit my website.

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