The power of the Internet and highly efficient communication technology has meant that the ability to expand a business’s market beyond normal national borders has become a reality. Of course, setting up business overseas is still challenging. There is a huge difference between setting up subsidiary agencies or business hubs in a suite of different countries and simply selling products online.

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The pandemic has slowed the former process but has little effect on the latter. This means that many businesses that think they have a future selling their products online in other countries have not faced many barriers to do so apart from transportation and supply delays which have affected the delivery of goods overseas from the company’s warehouse. The most important challenge is a linguistic one. Global business success depends at the very least on professional translation services. 

The role of translation in advertising

One of the most obvious requirements for going global is to find a way of marketing goods to the new markets which have been targeted. Hopefully, a good business plan based on market research has identified where new markets for the business’s products exist. Unless the business restricts its sales pitch to countries where people speak the same language, there will be a role to play in advertising translation. For many businesses that operate from countries where the national language is rarely spoken outside of that country, it is an absolute necessity to use professional marketing translators to help spread the message. For companies like Swedish Volvo and Finnish Nokia, translation is a given and the fact that these brands are universally recognised is an acknowledgement that the translation lesson was learnt very early on. Who outside Sweden and Finland would otherwise react to promotional marketing material in Swedish or Finnish? 

This lesson is hardest for companies based in countries where a more widely understood language is spoken. “Do we need advertising translation services?” may very well be one of the first queries by company executives when planning an international sales expansion. The lesson is often hard-won. The temptation to stick with the language of the parent company and use adverts and other marketing material in that single language may appear at first to be far more economical. Translation services do cost money, but without them, the value of the advertising may be missed. Research has shown time and time again that most consumers prefer to be informed about new products in their own language, even if they are semi-fluent in another language. 

Why advertising translation is not just an exercise in literal translation

Advertising translation is also not to be left to translators who do not specialise in marketing translation. Advertising at its most effective is usually full of colloquialisms, and often slang. To be catchy and effective it must be adapted to the cultural, even sub-cultural nuances of the new markets targeted. This takes more than just literal translation. Effective marketing translation is accompanied by something called localisation. This transforms the advertising and other marketing material into much more highly effective messaging that will resonate with locally-based consumers. Basically, good marketing translation is completed by translators who have a good grounding in the cultural environment of the intended overseas market and are not just “translators.” Effective translation for advertising will certainly come at a cost, but a business plan that fails to budget for it may fail at the first international hurdle!