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Loss in translation


“The translation called good has original value as a work of art.” — Benedetto Croce

Figures for global marketing campaigns suggest companies commonly grant 1% to 3% of their total budget to translation. While there’s no benchmark, do these percentages really reflect the importance of conveying emotion and the benefits of transcreation?

Can you afford to be lost in translation?


$10 million: that’s how much British multinational bank HSBC had to pay in 2009 to do some emergency rebranding after a translation fail. While the initial slogan of their marketing campaign was “Assume Nothing”, there was a failure to localise for foreign markets which led to the slogan being translated in many languages to “Do Nothing”. Oops. If only they’d hired us.


It might be safe to assume that any company would rather appoint a dedicated budget to achieve perfect translations, rather than having to pay that sort of amount in collateral damages. But, the evidence above shows that’s not always the case. We don’t know about you, but we definitely haven’t got a spare $10 million lying around.


While translation can tremendously help widen your audience, it can also narrow it if the translation is not quite right. Research published on the Consumer Barometer found a significant 41% of consumers worldwide state a poor translation or no translation is an obstacle when making an online purchase from a foreign country. In other words, translating content is not a trivial process and is necessary to appeal to users and cater to foreign users in their own language.

“Are you talking to me?”


Today, the worldwide population lives in nearly 200 countries and less than 6% of the population is native English. Reports from CSA Research on the behaviours and preferences of consumers state far fewer consumers will buy, or even consider products and services, if they’re not provided in their mother tongue:

  • 72% of consumers said they’d be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language

  • 56% of consumers said the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price

  • 72% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language

How Words in Translation avoids loss in translation


Our translation teams not only consider the creative aspect, they look deep into the brand culture, product positioning and tone of voice. Armed with this knowledge, they then look at how to transfer and make it idiomatically relevant in the specific cultural, social and political context. In short, our transcreators are as much wordsmiths who can craft a catchy line, as brand ambassadors who can carry and mediate your message into local languages.


As localisation specialists, we’re by your side every step of the way to the successful localisation of your marketing materials.

Drop us an email or give us a call if you’d like us to be part of your global expansion.


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