What is the role of translations in international marketing?



In this blog, we discuss the role of translations in international marketing, how translations are currently handled in companies, and how translations can be improved from a marketing perspective.

As a company becomes more international and looks for new target groups, translations become very important for its business. Translations are needed for web pages, product packaging and numerous other purposes. In marketing materials, word-for-word translations do not work because making an impact on a new target group requires the refining of the text.

Why do marketing in more than one language?

A prerequisite for getting a foothold in a new market is the company’s discoverability. Marketing and communication must be effective for the message to be heard and the company’s name to be remembered.

Contrary to what you might think, not everything needs to be started from scratch. If your company has created a large amount of interesting material about a product or service, it can be used in the new market. There’s no need to translate all existing content, only what’s relevant for the new target group. Translation and localization of existing materials is significantly less expensive than creating new content. Producing even a short blog article can take several working days, whereas a professional translator can translate 2,000 words a day on average. So it’s quite reasonable to translate existing content.

When entering a new market, it needs to be decided which language to address the new target group in. As a universal language, English is a compromise, because it's the most widely used online language. However, local takes precedence over universal, as people want to do business in their own language and are much more responsive to messages in it.

Another challenge relating to English is search engine optimization. Precisely because English is the most widely used language online, the competition for the most prominent and sought-after search result positions is much tougher. In this case, using the local language can give a company better search engine visibility.

When entering a new market, a product or service needs the support of marketing communications. Only a few products can gain recognition just by word of mouth. If you want to reach new target groups, marketing in multiple languages is a prerequisite for success.

How is multilingual marketing implemented in international organizations?

There are four established ways of implementing multilingual marketing. Each has its pros and cons.

Translations done by an employee who knows the local language

One of the most common ways to handle marketing-related translations is to use an employee working in the target market. In this case, the company must have some kind of local organization. An undeniable benefit of this situation is that the employee knows the local culture and is a native speaker of the target language–and also knows the product being marketed. However, doing translations alongside one’s own work may have its own problems. This approach also brings some bigger challenges. If the employee has no background in marketing, he or she may lack the skills to produce the required creative content. Translation may take a very long time if it isn’t done by a professional. If there’s a lot of translatable material, translations are usually done by a translation agency in a project-based fashion.


  • Knowledge of the local culture and language
  • Knowledge of the company, its culture and products


  • Resource issues
  • Possible lack of skills in marketing communications
Translations handled by a marketing agency

Companies often outsource their marketing to marketing agencies in both their home and international markets. Advertising agencies rarely have their own translators, so translations are outsourced either to freelancers or to translation agencies. In this case, the marketing agency handles the creative side, and a freelance translator takes care of the translation. The unquestionable strength of this model is the expertise of the marketing agency. Marketing experts also know how to address different target groups, and they are, of course, familiar with the ins and outs of search engine marketing.

Language-related issues may also arise in this arrangement, even when using professional translators. The translations are handled as one-off projects with various parties, which leads to poor or non-existent utilization of translation technologies. If the assignment isn’t carefully executed, the end result may be a too literal translation, and the carefully refined style and tone of the source language text will not be communicated in the target language as desired. Having translations go through a tendering process on a project-by-project basis can also break down the consistency of the company’s communications.


  • Top-quality marketing expertise
  • Knowing the appropriate tone of voice


  • Insufficient translator orientation, under-utilization of technology, lack of continuity
  • The translation doesn’t convey the message correctly
Having translations done directly by a translation service provider

One viable option is to outsource multilingual marketing translations directly to a translation service provider. The particular strengths of this approach are language expertise and knowledge of the local culture. A large service provider has such a large network of translators that a local translator can be guaranteed in almost all countries. A challenge may be that the translation service provider needs to familiarize itself more thoroughly with the services of the client company. This means that translating and editing the message takes time.


  • Local knowledge in translations
  • Professional translation quality


  • Inadequate knowledge of the client company and its products or services
A company internal translation team supporting marketing

The rarest approach is for a company’s own internal translation team to take responsibility for multilingual marketing translations. The strength of this arrangement is that the message stays consistent across all languages. The tone of voice also stays consistent when the translation team works with marketing team. The translations correspond to exactly what the marketing team wants their messages to achieve. In multilingual marketing, this approach produces the best results.

The challenge of this arrangement is price: maintaining a separate translation team is an expensive investment. There must be a continuously large volume of materials to be translated to remain cost-effective. Only a few companies have sufficiently large translation volumes to make a separate team profitable.


  • High-quality translations and consistent messages
  • Interaction with the marketing team


  • Very large translation volumes needed to be cost-effective

What is good international marketing?

If the goal is good international marketing that resonates with the target group, we shouldn’t really be talking about translations. If the goal is a text that appeals to the target audience, we need creative interpretation and inventive language versions. Verbatim marketing translations probably don’t affect the target audience in the same way as creative interpretation, in which the text is adapted for a strong effect. The purpose of translation is usually to convey the original message as unaltered as possible in another language, but marketing texts require nuances that appeal to the local audience. This is possible through creative interpretation.

A new target group requires a message that has been fine-tuned to address precisely that group.


Knowing the target group and tailoring your message for it are the most important premises when striving for better multilingual marketing. Knowing the target group also includes knowledge of local customs, search habits and culture. This helps to avoid the pitfalls related to a new market. Some words or terms may be problematic or even taboos in certain language areas.

Metrics and monitoring are as important in multilingual marketing as in the home market. In new markets, especially in the early stages, it’s good to get an idea of what measures work, and where there is room for improvement. Of course, at the same time we get important information on the kind of message that will appeal to the new target group.

What added value can a translation agency offer in multilingual marketing?

A modern translation service provider can help companies with international marketing in many different ways. An extensive network of translators includes translators for marketing texts who can do creative translations that appeal to the target audience. The network also includes people who can create new content directly in the target language. Translators, editors and copywriters, both linguistic and creative experts, work under the same roof.

Added value also comes from multilingual search engine optimization. The network includes translators who have mastered the techniques and tools of search engine optimization and are able to select the most relevant keywords for the search engine, for example, in web page translations.

It’s also good to remember the cost savings using translation technologies achieves. For example, in search engine marketing, a term bank is an excellent tool. The company can utilize the keywords stored there in its own content production and search engine marketing, and for translators in translations and creative texts. When a term bank is used on multiple levels and for various tasks, the possibility of better search engine visibility increases. The benefits of using a term bank become more obvious when a company does marketing in multiple languages.

When localizing existing marketing material, a translation memory can be very advantageous. If the material has repetitive content, using a translation memory will reduce translation costs. In creative texts, the cost benefit is not the same because repetitions are explicitly avoided–texts can even be unique.

A translation service provider can offer more than creative translations of marketing texts. They may also have expertise in producing video and web page content. In a changing world, translation service providers are adapting to the changing needs of the markets.

What are the prerequisites of good international marketing?

When producing international marketing that appeals to a new target group is involved, everything starts with a comprehensive briefing. The producer of the translation or creative text is informed in detail about the target audience, tone of voice, purpose of the campaign or message, and so on. The idea is to give them the most comprehensive instructions possible, because there’s rarely too much information. If it is the company’s first multilingual campaign, it may be beneficial to include examples of material used in the home market. This helps to form a more accurate picture of the style and tone of voice, for example.

The more extensive the multilingual marketing of a company is, the more important it is to have collaboration and dialogue. The better the parties understand each other, the more fruitful their cooperation will be.


Depending on their size and strategy, companies have many different ways to implement international marketing. It’s difficult to say which approach is the right one, because all have their strengths and weaknesses. A translation service provider may offer services that can significantly help in multilingual marketing. They have simply been left unused. The first thing to remember is that a translation service provider can help its clients in many other ways besides translations.

Does your company need help in producing multilingual content or with creative translations of marketing texts? Are you looking for a translation partner to conquer new markets? Please contact us, and our experts will help you find the services that best meet your needs.

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