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Video is the most powerful medium to reach the human heart and influence consumer behaviour. To achieve that impact in a video-based marketing campaign that crosses linguistic borders, the challenge becomes how best to execute a multilingual video campaign. We’ll consider how marketing translation services can help conduct winning campaigns in a cost-effective manner.

How Marketing Translation Differs from Other Translation

Marketing, ultimately, is an exercise in persuasion. At the risk of oversimplification, let’s express the formula as follows: the marketer aims to persuade participants in a market – the consumers – to part with their hard-won assets – their money – to exercise desirable behaviour – to buy the marketer’s products or services. If one adds the multilingual requirement, the challenge becomes more difficult.

Persuasive language is an essential component for any marketing campaign. The choice of words is critical to success in that task. So marketing translation services need to be adjusted for the specific tastes and preferences of each target market, tuned to their demographic and geographic characteristics. That translates to localization of the marketing campaigns.

The worldwide language services market is vast. According to Slator, the global industry totaled USD 24.2bn market in 2019. Although coronavirus-related factors caused a dip of some 8% last year, the largely virtual industry is expected to rebound in 2021. The marketing translation services sector is a relatively small slice of the overall language services pie. It is often lumped together with localization services in covering the task of adapting content and its distribution to various target markets.

The Challenges of Diverse Video Content to Marketing Translation

There are typically two ways of relating to video in the context of multilingual markets. One is to create the video content in a specific language for a specific market and then adapt the video to additional languages and target markets after the first video production has been completed. In effect, this reduces marketing translation to a post-production task.

What this means in practical terms is that the video itself is in a single language and creative choices are focused on the initial target market. Subsequent languages and targets are secondary, an after-market. To reach these secondary audience in a way that they can understand what is being communicated, there is a need to add subtitles. For complex video content, such as cinematic productions like full-length motion pictures or movies with human actors, there is really no practical alternative to this. The costs of reshooting for a different language or market would be prohibitive.

There is a robust ecosystem for subtitles, with service providers based near movie production centers such as Hollywood or Bollywood. Translators responsible for subtitling may be outsourced freelancers, but the specialists who integrate the subtitles with the video itself tend to work together with editors in post-production studios.

There are significant disadvantages of subtitling as a solution for reaching audiences speaking a foreign language. Generally, audiences do not respond optimally to being forced to read subtitles as they are watching something. Titles distract from the visuals and the dialogue. Reading dilutes the emotional impact.

Therefore, from a marketing perspective, subtitling reduces the impact of the video medium and distract from the intended message, which is self-defeating. But often there is no better alternative for budgetary reasons, and therefore the challenge becomes. The dubbing option is worse due to the lack of authenticity of replacing voiced content.

Additional Translation Options for Short, Animated, and Marketing/Ad Content

However, many forms of video content are more suitable to a holistic approach involving the creation of content that is conceived as multilingual from the start. Indeed, a well-conceived marketing video campaign should first define the target markets and their audiences and plan for the inclusion of all selected languages and all local variants. In the Indian context, for example, a marketer may decide that a marketing video needs to be targeted for speakers of Hindi, Bengali and Marathi to reach a solid majority of the national domestic market in their native tongues. English could be added as an additional secondary language to reach speakers who don’t speak the other three.

Obviously, if a marketing video producer aims for a primarily international audience, the choices would be completely different. Sure, Hindi and Bengali – both in the top ten popular native-tongue languages, would be contenders, but Chinese, English, Spanish, and Arabic would be worthy of consideration. Many marketing videos have a single narrator, or a few actors, so finding native-speaking acting or voicing talent is a manageable, affordable option. The same holds true for ad spots and animated videos. There much of the language may be in graphics or brief dialogue, so replacement of one language for another is doable, even with a constrained budget.

Obtaining Video Marketing Translation Services in an Efficient, Affordable Way

Those seeking talent for translating video content – whether for pre-production scripting or post-product subtitling – have a variety of resources from which to choose.

The most expensive and the highest level in terms of service quality are translation companies. These provide a “one-stop shop” for all language services, including video scripting, interpretation, transcription and subtitling. Typically, you will be serviced by personal account management teams, which mediate between you and the linguistic service providers. You would communicate the brief of a marketing campaign and a script. The translation agency would adapt the campaign for all target audiences. For marketing videos, the translation could be delivered as a script or as a localized video.

Naturally, the full-service agency will be pricier. Finding the right company for you project is up to you. Start by searching for “translation agency” and “video” together with the languages you require. Then query a few companies in the results, interviewing the translation agencies on your short-list to find the best chemistry and value for money.

For simple projects such as bilingual versions of an existing video, it may be practical to seek freelance translators on marketplaces like Upwork or It’s a good idea to hire in pairs, so that one freelancer can review the work of the other and serve as back-up.

Resist the temptation of using free online translation services like Google Translate. Translation software cannot match the quality of a good human translator. To rely on machine translation is to risk that the impact of your marketing campaign gets lost in translation. A multilingual video marketing campaign is won with experienced professional translation resources on your team, responding to your direction.