Online video, although still in its infancy, is the future of international marketing. Video is everywhere. Marketers and brand managers around the world are embracing the use of video as a critical component of their brand and marketing strategy as well as their customer research efforts. Consider:

  • PRWeb estimates online video usage increased 81 percent during 2011.
  • A KISSmetrics blog estimates that viewers of product video are 64-85 percent more likely to buy after watching.
  • eMarketer reveals that nearly 87 percent of US brands and agencies leveraged video for their content marketing programs and that by 2015, 76 percent of online audiences, roughly 200 million, will view online video on a regular basis.


A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million

Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research estimates that one-minute of video equals 1.8 million words! That’s because when information comes in the form of images instead of words, we make more connections and understand more. As long as the video remains in one language and in one market, the issues may stay manageable. However, many marketers and brand managers work globally, and therein is the challenge—going international. Videos are much harder to translate and localize than written material. If this same material needs to be localized for multiple markets or even only translated so the home production team can get to work, it can become a tedious, time-consuming, and costly process filled with unplanned surprises that every marketer wants to avoid.

The top five problems with taking video internationally

Localizing a marketing video, using video to conduct market research, or using a video to capture an international customer’s endorsement can be powerful. However, all too often companies struggle with time and cost overruns at the backend of the production process, even risking the creation of a subpar product. Some of the reasons for this include:

  1. The purpose and goal of the video are unclear to key stakeholders from the start. Different processes are required for research videos as opposed to high-level customer endorsements. For example, although the purpose might be clear in one person’s mind, the traveling video crew or the overseas team, do not understand the ultimate goal for the video.
  2. A video is made without considering localization implications at the beginning.It should be clear from the start if a video will later be dubbed, subtitled, or only used as research material to avoid unnecessary transcription and translation cost.
  3. Videos are developed within one cultural framework and marketers don’t know how they will be received in other markets. This is especially true for advertising or case study material. The content should be internationally appropriate and relevant. For example, using appropriate colors is critical for entering the Chinese marketplace and connecting with Chinese consumers.
  4. Video interviews are created in a way that makes them difficult to edit later. Even though a marketer may only need a few seconds of a customer endorsing a product, an hour-long interview might get transcribed and translated unnecessarily.  The video crew often knows exactly what parts of the interview worked well and what parts where less than ideal and are not usable. Noting this while recording can save much time and money later.
  5. The budget is focused on video creation and not on internationalization. Sending video crews often takes up so much of the budget that when transcription and translation is later required, the additional cost and time comes as a surprise to the producers.

In some cases, these issues cannot be fixed since the footage is not usable for the original purpose and sending a video team back to reshoot is cost prohibitive. Yet, with a few simple steps,marketers can avoid the back end problems.

Five steps that minimize rework

Digital videos and hard drive space are inexpensive, and that explains part of the proliferation of larger and longer videos. The assumption is the more pictures, the more “takes”, or versions, the more likely the right content will be captured. This often results in much rework and waste. In the worst case, the purpose cannot be fulfilled, because the perfect “take” was not taken or was buried in hours of video, or terabytes of data.

There are a few simple steps that will help you optimize the creation of video in an international arena.

  1. Plan aheadEstablish clear goals for the video.Define how it will be used. Is the purpose to conduct research for the company or the client? Does the content need to include specific data points? Or is the goal to capture the perfect shot for the next national ad campaign?
  2. Communicate the goals to all key stakeholders. It is important for the videography team, transcribers and translators to be on the same page right from the start. When specific goals are communicated, they create the awareness about potential cultural concerns that could become an issue later if the video will be used in different markets. At times, a rough transcript with a basic translation is sufficient, but this should be known ahead of time to avoid unnecessary reproduction steps. Not every video needs to be verbatim.
  3. Allocate sufficient time. A video can be shot in an hour, but can take days to be transcribed and translated. A general statistic is that it takes 90-180 minutes to transcribe a 15-minute video depending on the language, sound quality, and number of speakers. A quick 15 minute video shot will generally take a full day to transcribe and translate.
  4. Conduct an international market video analysis. Learn how the speech patterns, non-verbal language or gestures, or the specific content might be interpreted differently by an international as opposed to a domestic audience. For example, having a participant show his or her soles of their shoes during an interview would not be well received in the Middle or Near East. In some cultures a male or female spokesperson is more appropriate for some products or services. Colors are important as well.For example, showing an executive’s image within a black border, in many cultures means that he is dead. Color is also important for the clothing people wear in video shoots.
  5. Create accurate budgets. Plan for the costs of transcription, translation, shooting, editing and other standard production expenses.For example, keep in mind that we speak on average 100-150 words per minute and translation is mostly charged by the word.


A thorough international video planning process can save costs and time, reduce surprises, and most importantly, lessen potential headaches and stress on the back end of the video production process. After all, a million words is more than a handful. Accordingly, hearing “Print! That’s a wrap,” sounds a lot better than “Cut! Retake.”

Photo: alfabravo