Why it costs more to translate marketing content than regular content

Drawing on a book to illustrate how to translate marketing content
Your brand is influenced by the marketing content you produce… and its translation

When you look at translation agencies’ price tables, you may notice premiums on some text categories. If you’ve never tried to translate marketing content, you might wonder why it’s usually in the same category as legal translations, medical translations, academic translations, and the other usual suspects.

Let’s shed some light on the difficulties linked to marketing translations and why it’s not a good idea to be too cheap with them.


Using automated tools to translate marketing content? Forget about it.

It’s the easiest strategy to recommend against. Although machine translations are improving, it’s true. But type anything into Google Translate and check the results.

You probably see a few flaws with the translation already. It’s already a lot to trust a machine to translate your brand accurately. And it definitely will not be able to translate your message and localize it so that the nuances will be understood in your target language.

The good thing about it is that it’s free. And immediate.

But you could also immediately ruin your brand.


Asking for a regular, general translation to translate marketing content

You decide to trust a human for your marketing translation. That’s great. A native of your target language will definitely do a better job than a machine. And the agency might quote you a very good price.

But do you know exactly what you are getting with that good deal?

There are basically two ways the agency can offer affordable translations:

  1. They assign a junior translator to the task.
  2. They ask their translator for a straightforward translation.
Got Milk? used to translate marketing content the wrong way.
The “Got Milk?” message is an easy one to misinterpret.

The first one is easy to understand. A junior translator costs less than an experienced one. They have training though. We’re not talking about someone who is translating as a hobby. But the issue here is the expertise. Junior translators are less likely to have a field of expertise. And if you are looking to translate marketing content, well, that’s what it is. An expertise.

The second option is to ask for a straight, crisp, point-A-to-point-B translation. It’s much faster to translate something if you ignore nuances and don’t fret over details.

But details matter. When the American Dairy Association’s “Got Milk?” was translated with “Are you lactating?” in Mexico, a majority of Mexican consumers must have lost sight of the original campaign ‘s humor.

A mistake that’s easily fixed if you look at the intended message and audience in both America and Mexico. But that takes time. And then some thought. More than what is reflected in the slogan’s word count.


How to translate marketing content the proper way

Marketing strategy and diagrams. They will influence how you translate marketing content
Many things will impact how to translate your brand message, and your translator has to think about all of them

This is not a lesson on how to translate marketing content. Rather, it’s a way to explain the perceived gap between a low word count and the (seemingly) high quote you receive for your marketing translation.

We saw that going to the lower end of the price scale might not be good. Let’s see how the prices are calculated on the high-end now.

Imagine you have a 300-word pamphlet for a conference you’re attending soon. The main goal of this pamphlet is to attract potential customers. You didn’t use technical jargon, but there is a science to the content you’re using: it looks like an ad copy.

For this, your translator will want to make sure they understands your message. They’ll also ask a few questions about your intended audience. It might be okay to use the same text in your language whether you try to reach homemakers or working employees, but that’s not the case in every country.

When the translator goes through the translation stage, they’ll double, triple-check every line to be sure it accurately reflects the original message. You don’t want to loose any of its punch. You’ll also want it to work as a whole.

Finally, an experienced translator will proofread your pamphlet. They’ll check for spelling and grammar, of course, but also spend a lot more time verifying every meaning. You don’t want any misunderstanding, any offensive translation, anything that can be misinterpreted.

And that’s how a one-hour job (300 words) turns into a three to five-hour one.


Before you pay top dollar to translate marketing content…

Hopefully this little article will have given value to marketing translations. If you consider the efforts made, the time spent, and the expertise required, then a good marketing translation is worth every penny.

Add to that the fact they can literally save you millions of dollars.

But before you go and spend your whole localization budget on your 300-word document, take your time. Make sure the translation agency you choose has a process for marketing translations. Ask as many questions as you need until you feel comfortable they can deliver on their promise.

It’s pretty bad if your brand looses credibility in the eyes of customers in a specific market. It’s even worse if you just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for that.

Don’t hesitate to do this even with freelance translators. Good agencies and good translators alike will let you know if they feel something is out of their realm of expertise. And remember: they are the experts, but you are still the one making the final decision.