International Video Marketing: It’s More than Just Translation

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More and more companies are realizing the benefits of video marketing and learning how powerful the medium is for promoting a business and bringing in new leads.

The statistics on this speak for themselves: As reported in Forbes, including video in marketing materials can “boost click-through rates” by two to three times. Furthermore, the figures indicate that 64% of customers are more likely to purchase a product after seeing a video about it. These are compelling numbers, so it’s unsurprising that nearly 90% of marketers now include video as part of their online marketing efforts.

With videos being so effective, it’s little wonder that many marketers consider video translation as a way to reap even more benefits from their video-based endeavors. Beyond the fact that it’s logical to assume that putting a message across in multiple languages will lead to more customers and more sales, there are clear statistics that show just how effective this strategy can be.

A study of online shoppers, conducted by the Common Sense Advisory, showed just how much more responsive consumers are when spoken to in their own native language. For example:

  • The survey showed that “60% of the people in non-Anglophone countries rarely or never buy from English-only websites.”
  • The figures showed that well over 50% of these people make a point of spending more time on websites delivered in their native language.

With all of this in mind, it’s clear that businesses have a huge amount to gain from making efforts to speak to people in the language that they prefer and are most comfortable with. However, making a success of this is about far more than a simple translation, as we now move on to discuss.

The Perils of “Basic” Translation

Anyone spending time in an unfamiliar country will quickly notice cultural differences in the marketing materials they see. Television adverts are a prime example of this, with foreign commercials sometimes feeling different (sometimes to the point of amusing), compared to those “back home.”

This is simply because different countries do have cultural quirks, different priorities and attitudes, and unique ways of doing things. Some companies even tweak their product ranges to appeal to a local market, such as McDonald’s offering items such as the “Teriyaki McBurger” in Japan, and the “Croque McDo” in Belgium!

Words themselves often have very different meanings in other languages too. In Swedish, the word “kiss” refers to urination; “Brat,” a word widely-used to describe an unruly child in English means “brother” in no less than five languages (Serbian, Croatian, Russian, Polish and Ukranian). There are also a surprising number of English words that translate to refer to genitals in various other languages.  

The problem with translating blindly – especially when assisted by a “machine,” like Google Translate – is that you won’t necessarily be alerted to these amusing or embarrassing situations. Leaving such a word in an untranslated brand name, or elsewhere in a piece of video content, could have very undesirable consequences!

This need for cultural awareness and sensitivity is the reason why basic video translation for marketing materials has its limitations; It’s better than doing nothing to appeal to a foreign language market, but there are better and more effective ways to go about it.


This is where true localization experts come in. Native speakers with awareness of local culture are in the perfect position to judge whether a marketing message will be effective in a basic, translated form, or whether more could be done to tailor it to a specific market.

There are various ways to do this. Making use of colloquialisms and slang can be an effective way to tap into the way people speak and think in a specific country, and doing so proves the message is properly tailored to the audience. In addition, a localization expert can ensure that there’s nothing in the message that could come across as unintentionally offensive to those in a particular country.

Sometimes all it takes is a clumsy translation to cause offense, but in other cases, it’s unawareness of a local superstition or custom. For example, it’s seen as unlucky to flip a cooked fish in China or to shake your legs in South Korea. Without unlimited knowledge of these global quirks, it’s clear how easy it could be to inadvertently include something in a marketing video that really wouldn’t sit well with the intended audience. However, a native of each country would immediately be able to tell you why something should be avoided.

A Huge Global Market

Taking English as an example, it’s spoken by over 500 Million people worldwide, and in over 100 countries. However, there are 7.6 Billion people in the world and nearly 200 countries. This shows what a huge, untapped market remains for companies willing to direct their marketing efforts in other directions by branching out into other languages.

As the examples here prove, it’s not just about translating some words. True localization means maximizing the value of the sales message and avoiding offence. Some things are worth doing properly.

Louise Taylor manages content for translation company Tomedes. A writer and keen linguist, she has qualifications in Spanish, French, German and Latin. She’s in charge of the Tomedes translation blog and the company’s Business translation center.

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