Translation 3.0: Commoditization, Context and Commerce
The weakness of machine translation and crowdsourced platforms isn't in the act of translation, it's in the act of localization and personalization. A custom-tailored web experience, an email offer written for a specific industry or a landing page geared toward a particular market will have to be localized and personalized for the target audience, not just translated.
Industry buzzwords and popular phrases all differ from country to country. One recent blunder came from HSBC Bank. In 2009, the financial institution had to rebrand its entire global private banking operations after bringing a U.S. campaign overseas. The "Assume Nothing" branding campaign was translated in many countries as "Do Nothing." In the end, the bank spent $10 million to change its tagline to "the world's private bank."
Due to the nuances of localization, it's remarkably easy for businesses to slip up. That's why companies need to look for language service providers that can provide marketing and sales advice for local markets. The latest automated and crowdsourced tools won't be able to replace the expertise of an industry veteran who intimately understands the local market. And, as HSBC shows, a cavalier attitude can end up costing much more than machine translation is worth.
eBay can automatically translate search queries, and BuzzFeed can draw from crowdsourcing, but the most effective marketing messages still need to be carefully planned and executed according to the needs of the customer. With the noise of the markets reaching a fever pitch, the only way businesses can stand out is via personalized content that really speaks to the audience.
Innovative services and tools can help automate the more redundant processes of translation, but the real value is in the language service provider that works with a business to craft the right story for the right market, finding a message that connects with prospects on an individual level.
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