Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Good wine and translation – Marketing the unknown


[bottle of wine*]

Being allergic to grapes, I am far from a connoisseur of wine despite my French mother. Still, from time to time, I have to go to the store and choose an appropriate bottle of wine to bring as a gift or use in a boeuf bourguignon. As a non-expert, I look at the labels, the bottles and the price and make an uneducated guess which is ordinary vin de table and which is a distinguished vintage. Likewise, purchasers of translation and similar services must look for clues to somehow distinguish the risky providers from the ones they can trust. These service providers can learn much from the wineries in how to market their products and attain higher prices. Specifically, it is important to understand the similarities in market niching, messaging, framing and pricing.

It is clear that some people are neither interested in nor can distinguish a fine wine. Thus, they are not willing to pay more for a better product and are quite satisfied with a cheap fermented-grape liquid, a bit like Google Translate. On the other hand, for reasons of pride, need or personal taste, other wine buyers seek the extraordinary and pay a premium for it without hesitation on condition that they receive value of course. Likewise, with machine translation of various types readily available and often able to produce understandable texts, many translation purchasers do not require more than a satisfactory rendition of the text and view low cost as an essential factor. On the other hand, in some fields, particularly medicine, law and marketing, accuracy and seamlessness are vital for the success of these materials. These customers seek expert translators to provide local versions of the text with the knowledge that the benefits of a solid translation far outweigh any cost. As one expert said at a conference, there are two ways to make money as a translator: work quickly or specialize. Wineries and translators must choose a path.

Faced with a wall of similar sized bottles, I depend on the labels to provide me some clues to the quality of the wine. If I see a wine that claims “made from the finest grapes”, my initial question is whether there are wines made from the poorest grapes. On the other hand, “Graced the tables of Louis XIV, Napoleon and George Pompidou” or “Grand Cru ”indicate the vintners have a strong idea of what they are doing. In short, it is important to build trust in a few words. Translators also must express their uniqueness in a few words to build trust. “15 years’ experience”, “Certified Translator by X” and “20 years of professional background in Z”, to name a few, indicate that this person is superior to others. By contrast, “expert translator and “reliable editor” merely state the minimum requirements. So, extraordinary wines and translators must define themselves and express their distinctions to the buyer.

Seemingly minor, the form of the text on the bottle creates an impression. Like clothes, design elements such as font, pictures and aesthetics create an overall impression. Simply put, a cheap label indicates a cheap wine while a fancy label hints at a fancy wine. For translators, since many translation purchasers cannot distinguish proper translation from poor translation, they notice obvious visual elements. Therefore, translators need to make sure that the formatting is neat and identical to the original (or at least as identical as relevant). Obviously, translators must make every effort to avoid spelling errors. In particular, errors in spelling names can often upset customers. It is important to relate and explain any non-translated item, include charts and screenshots. As in wine labels, a classy look indicates a quality product.

Statistically in wine and translation, there is no correlation between price and quality. Some table wines are quite good while some expensive wines do not justify their price. Still, faced with two bottles with red liquid from the same grapes, I look at the price and assume, from lack of contrary information, that the more expensive one is better. So, if I want to bring a more impressive gift, I choose the more expensive option. Likewise, when customers that require a quality product receive varying price options, they assume that the translators with the lowest ones are less capable of providing that quality. In short, higher prices not only create more income per product but also may increase volume just like with wine.

Translators and providers of similar services need to focus their market, communicate with that niche, arrange the package elegantly and price it to complete that image. Lehaim, salut and nazdorovie to all.

*Picture caption help the blind full access the Internet.

Picture credit

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