How forward-thinking brands leverage machine translation for better results

Marketing and advertising content must resonate with its audience to be effective. This is a challenge when campaigns span different languages ​​and cultures, globally and locally, and budgets and resources are tight.

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies have enhanced machine translation to deliver time and cost savings for brands entering new markets. While this sounds great on paper, what is often missing is a strategically blended approach of people, process and technology to deliver content that resonates clearly across regions and borders, which machine translation cannot provide on its own.

How machine translation fits into a localization strategy

Machine translation consists of translating content from one language to another without human intervention. The most advanced type is neural machine translation, which continually improves linguistic knowledge by gleaning information from large amounts of textual data, much like neural networks in the human brain.

However, machine translation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different types of content require different types of language services, especially in marketing. Machine translation is one tool in a large belt of localization tools, and it can be the right solution when applied in the right scenario.

Machine translation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different types of content require different types of language services, especially in marketing.

Localization is the adaptation of a product or content to address the cultural nuances that allow it to resonate with target audiences as if it had been natively developed. For example, a food product or beverage may not be marketed in the same way across states or counties – and possibly across neighborhoods – even though the target audience may speak the same language.

To use machine translation effectively, brands need a strong localization team that can point out where certain aspects of a campaign should fall on the language services sliding scale.

3 levels of language services

Localization experts can identify the right ratio of people and technology for a specific workflow or asset, choosing from three service levels:

Human transcreation of the brands’ most creative assets by market editors: Transcreation is about reinventing the core idea to achieve maximum resonance and appear natural in a specific market by blending copywriting with translation, linguistics and anthropology. Think of the classic Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” It can have a wide range of meanings if translated directly.

Computer-aided translation (CAT) with a human translator: Computer-assisted translation can provide that happy medium between person and machine for large volumes of branded text, resulting in significant time and cost savings. CAT stores translated content in a library called a “translation memory”. The new copy is viewed against this translation memory and the computer automatically identifies the repetitive content. This allows translators to focus their attention on new copy, avoiding repetitive translations. Additionally, brands can store ultra-creative campaign titles and slogans in a glossary to ensure consistency between transcreation and translation workflows.

Machine translation with or without human “post-editing” or proofreading: Low-risk assets, such as internal materials, do not require the same level of human contact. These assets strike a balance between cost and time versus quality. When paired with the right post publisher, machine translation can achieve good results.

For best results, start early

It is important to prioritize localization in the origination phase. By integrating localization teams early in campaign development, brands can create core assets in a way that requires less rework during translation and transcreation. This includes everything from copy consultation to design verification, including images, fonts, and spacing to allow breathability of text expansion and contraction in all languages.

Ultimately, better core assets increase the possibilities for automation, which results in faster localization. And nowadays, localization must evolve almost at the rate of creation.

Leverage technology throughout the process

Machine translation works best within a larger technology stack that unifies and optimizes the creative production process. Tag’s Di Translate, a portal within the end-to-end marketing execution platform, Digital Interact (Di), acts as a brand’s gateway to over 118 languages ​​and a range of mechanical and human solutions, including a network of over 4,000 -market linguists.

For example, before partnering with Tag for language services in 2019, SmileDirectClub (SDC) only used machine translation. Next, Tag applied the three-tier model, creating a strong glossary for the brand; transcreate ultra-creative assets, like slogans and TV commercials; automate low-risk assets, such as print, social media, and email; and providing cultural consultation for new creators to enhance future localization potential.

This resulted in improved translation quality, as well as up to 58% reduction in language spend and 35% faster approval times. And according to SDC’s vice president of creative, the technology’s language memory “feels like magic.”

Integrating localization into a technology-enabled creative production workflow enables efficiencies that improve quality, mitigate duplication of effort, and reduce costs through intelligent automation. And in today’s fast-paced marketplace, these factors can make or break brand campaigns.