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I have a fairly woolly idea of what globalisation means. I suspect most people are like that. One aspect of globalisation I had not thought of, and I suspect has not been thought of by most people, even amongst those who understand the formal definition of globalisation (if there is one), is its impact on marketing.
Consider this: you are a major international brand and you are sold and marketed in dozens, even hundreds of countries world-wide. If you happen to be a tin of baked beans this isn’t much of a problem. But suppose that you are insurance or medicine or software or some other sort of thing which requires marketing literature and/or technical descriptions to explain.
Of course you could produce all of this documentation (whether printed or on the Internet) in English and just trust to the fact that “oh well, most people speak English” but if you are trying to sell to the citizens of Russia or Japan it will be your competitor that produces his information in Russian or Japanese (preferably the real thing and not pidgin versions) that will win the business.
So, one of the forgotten facets of globalisation is that all of those web pages and all of those pages of marketing and technical documents all need, ideally, to be produced in every language for every target market that your company has.
Of course, the problem is that translating every document and every page into every language is hideously expensive and time consuming (which means delays in bringing new products to market)—right? Well no, actually; a large part of this process can be automated, technical terms can be captured and reused, and it can be a lot less costly and take a lot less time than you might think—ask Sony, Bosch, Deutsche Bank, Canon, Best Western, Philips, Sun, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and Morgan Stanley, for example—all of which use SDL’s software and services for this purpose.
SDL is a public company with revenues running at around $200 million. Somewhat surprisingly, given that it is a UK-based company (albeit that it has offices in 30 odd countries), it only derives 10% of its revenues from the UK, but perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the company is seeing a growth in demand for using its software and services to translate from one foreign language into another, as opposed to translating from English to other languages. Or perhaps this is because we English speakers tend to be very parochial about our approach to foreign languages. Or, then again, it may simply be because we are unaware of the sorts of services provided by SDL. In particular, we tend to leave such matters to some translation service buried somewhere within the bowels of the organisation rather than it being a front-end of mind topic for CMOs and CTOs as it should be.
I do not intend to discuss SDL’s products and services in any great detail: suffice it to say that it is the market leader in providing solutions for Global Information Management (the strategy necessary to achieve the globalisation described), that its offering includes both the use of software and the use of specialist translators around the world (to refine the machine-led translation) and that it has recently acquired Tridion (a web content management company—the synergies here should be obvious).
The bottom line is that if your company has any pretensions towards being a global player then you need to be marketing in the native language of your markets—if you don’t you competitors will—which means that need to take a multi-lingual approach. SDL could be a good place to start.