Building Brand Equity in International Markets with Human Translation


If you’ve recently found yourself facing the reality that the future of your company’s growth lies in international markets, you’ve probably also wondered what the best method is for translating your products, services, and brand identity for all of those global consumers.

Odds are Googling your options hasn’t simplified things. Freelance linguists, professional translation agencies, “crowdsourced” translation portals, machine translation tools...there’s an ocean to navigate. (Even Google may have suggested you try Google Translate.) Much of this flood is driven by low-cost options, promising a relatively small investment is all it takes to open up your company to millions of potential customers around the world. Technology, it would seem, is working its magic, saving budgets, and connecting businesses to buyers at the click of a button.

The translation industry itself is in a state of great flux, but the view that human translation is on the decline while automated solutions are on the rise lacks a full appreciation for the complexity of language, culture, and business. In truth, the future is paradoxically exciting and extremely familiar: Innovative translation technologies and human translation will have a place side-by-side. Today’s question is likely to be tomorrow’s question, too: Where on the graph does the business use case and the translation method optimally intersect?

In terms of extending a brand overseas, the relationship quality translation has to protecting (and building) brand equity is often as important and as intangible as the assets it protects. We’re all familiar with occasional high-profile advertising translation gaffes in which a mistranslation results in a funny, off-color, or even offensive message. But the greater hazard with poor translation in essential brand messaging is that you may not know when it’s gone wrong until it’s too late. A linguistic lack of clarity on launch, a confusing ad campaign, or poorly expressed brand position...they’re often the undiagnosed cause of lost sales and diminished consumer preference.

Genius translation goes unnoticed by the native speaker and brings the greatest return on investment. In helping major global brands interpret and master the challenge of maintaining a consistent communication strategy in foreign language markets, we’ve experienced nothing as effective as human talent coordinated with efficient technology. For companies like Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, Netflix, and Sony, billions in brand equity can’t be gambled on less than the best translation human minds have to offer. Major international brands aren’t the only ones with a great deal at stake. Start-ups, especially those with venture-funded, high-ambition launch objectives in targeted foreign markets.

Human translation drives revenue across a range of channels. Many involve creative copy or “pre-sale” collateral. Ad campaigns, brochures, international websites, and retail displays all depend on style, tone, and nuances in language which are best served by the human touch. But not all brand-related materials are consumer facing. Given that a brand’s promise is fulfilled in operations, human translation can be equally as important for in-house training materials. This is especially true when an in-country salesforce or support team will be the living expression of your brand for non-English speaking customers.

While low-cost translation options often characterize human translation as an expensive solution, it bears mentioning that doing something cheaply two or three times over adds up as well. Getting it right on the first go-round with human translation can actually improve speed-to-market while ensuring a solid first impression. Where technology has played a major role in human translation is actually in driving down costs. Over the past 20 years, the cost of human translation services has decreased considerably, largely due to advancements in time management and communication tools.

While 95% of Acclaro’s business translation services centers on human translation and the expertise required to coordinate teams and efficiently manage human translation projects, we embrace the full continuum of translation tools insofar as they serve our clients’ needs. For brand building abroad, nothing quite matches the human touch. 

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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