In repositioning campaign, Smartling puts spotlight on its people
Adrian Cohn discusses “Move the World with Words,” which recognizes translators, the language tech company's unsung heroes
Adrian Cohn discusses “Move the World with Words,” which recognizes translators, the language tech company's unsung heroes.
Behind a successful marketer, there’s a CEO who embraces the need to do something bold. Without support at the highest levels, it’s business as usual with minimal risk-taking. Smartling’s recent “Move the World with Words” campaign is a case in point. CEO Jack Welde challenged his marketing team to reposition Smartling, a well-respected but transactional translation platform, as an indispensable global commerce partner. Adrian Cohn, director of brand strategy and communications, circled the globe to meet the challenge.
Recognizing that translations are only as good as the translator, and that these individuals are the heart and soul of the company, Cohn elevated the profile of their normally behind-the-scenes stars. Cohn and his team engaged a photographer with strong storytelling skills to chronicle 10 translators in nine countries on four continents. This yielded a wealth of extraordinary content, including a coffee table book, blog posts, high-impact direct mail, events, office décor and more, all aligned with Smartling’s newly defined “Move the World with Words” purpose. The campaign, which resulted in a significant increase in media coverage, site traffic and new business opportunities, was more than pretty pictures.
What was the origin of “Move the World with Words"?
At the beginning of the year, we set out to articulate why we exist more broadly in an effort to reinforce our brand promise to the market. We came up with “Move the World with Words” because ultimately, we enable global commerce, and through the work of translators create connections between our customers and their end users. It was also a strategic goal to connect our customers with their translators because it is one of the factors that contributes to increasing translation quality.
Given that Smartling is a software company, why not emphasize all your whiz-bang features?
When the company started 10 years ago, our marketing was focused on the special technology—the improved efficiencies, scalability, and so on. Over time, our competitors adopted the same messaging. That was clue No. 1 that we had to reinvent ourselves to establish differentiation. It was a natural fit to focus on translators because our customers are keenly interested in creating high-quality content, so we thought, why not tell stories about the people who create the translations?
Talk about the logistics of photographing translators all over the world?
We worked with the world-class photographer and storyteller Elisabeth Brentano to document our translators’ stories. She was willing to travel just about anywhere in the world but, logistically, it was quite complex. We had her work with our language services team to select which translators to feature. The translators then proposed itineraries for what they would show her during the visit. Travel was booked through Smartling—flights, hotels, cars and drivers. And, while traveling around the world sounds like a dream to most, the schedule was extremely rigorous. One day of travel, one day of shooting, another day of travel, repeat. She went from New York to Spain to France to Italy to Turkey to Germany to Japan to Brazil to Argentina and ended in San Francisco.
So you have all these beautiful photos. How did you take advantage of them?
We launched this campaign in an agile way. While she was on the road, we gave her the keys to our Instagram account and started posting right away. And for our Global Ready Conference, we made a video about the campaign, and printed 40 photos that were exhibited for customers and prospects, each accompanied by a brief description that invited the reader to learn about the person in the photograph. We later moved these to each of our offices so we can be reminded on a daily basis of the unsung heroes behind global commerce.
The book which is quite gorgeous. How did you get the word out about it?
We did a number of things to promote our book. We started ramping the team on the campaign in March, talked about it conceptually at our user conference in May while simultaneously launching stories about the translators online in a gallery and article format. But it hasn’t stopped there. The campaign message is part of every conversation we have with customers and prospects alike on a daily basis.
How did you get your customers involved?
It’s important to us that our customers get to know our translators, because we believe that a better relationship between the two will lead to a deeper level or personalization for the end user. So we spent a ton of time getting our customers involved with the campaign by introducing it at our flagship conference, and by launching an entirely new event—Global Ready Translation Summit—where we gave away copies of the book, organized presentations by translators, and reinforced the value of knowing the translators.
Is there a business development component?
Yes. We’re distributing the book to prospects who are interested in buying Smartling. We think it’s a great opportunity for people who are new to the industry to learn about the translators’ personal lives and professional craft, but also an opportunity for veterans of the industry to be reminded of the unsung hero behind their global content.
How has this program helped your business?
Move the World with Words is a brand campaign that’s designed to enhance Smartling’s business strategy. It is our intention to grow our language services business, and we’re pleased with the early results. Organic traffic since launching the book is up 11.4 percent month-over-month. We’ve realized 86 percent of our earned media goal for the campaign in 2019. Before the campaign, only 20 percent of new opportunities included language services—now, 80 percent of opportunities include language services. And finally, the number of customers using Smartling for translation increased by six percentage points (our goal was three percent).