Advertisements reveal a lot about who we are

Advertisements reveal a lot about who we are

Drucker portrait

Upping our advertising game

Management guru Peter Drucker famously wrote, “a business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.” It’s a great line. It’s an axiom with far reaching implications. It also implies that companies can be differentiated on these two points alone.

Recently at Honyaku Plus we began to up our game in the marketing arena, which naturally led to the topic of in-bound marketing (providing informative content for free to interest your target audience and generate interest in your product) and SEO (the use of keywords to make search engines display your information higher up than that of other companies). It’s all about social proof and credibility, at least on the surface. How you advertise, however, says a lot more about who you are than some companies imagine.

A few months ago, we started investigating the keywords for our industry, and I came upon a Japanese website that called itself a “translation service provider’s ranking website.” It was highly polished, and they played up the fact that the service providers were ranked based on “customer reviews.” Having recently surveyed our clients to learn our strengths and weaknesses, I was curious about what customers said of our competition. So I clicked on the top-ranked translation company. The next page gave a list of information about the company—your basic elevator pitch about why they were best, plus a few contact options—followed by their “customer reviews.” Imagine my confusion when the database helpfully filled in that field with “No reviews yet.” Hmm. So, how did that company get to be “#1”?
The site also helpfully provided a list of the featured companies, and these were classified into their respective fields—i.e. the industries that a company primarily served. Here, I discovered another oddity. There were only one or two companies per industry, and there were only about 15 companies listed.

As an executive responsible for “innovation and marketing,” my first thought was, “each company paid to be listed here, brilliant! Where do I sign up?”
However, there was no information about or link to the owner of the website. There was no way to sign up!

The wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing approach is not who we are as a company

So, who are these companies with gorgeous websites and stock photographs of bright, sparkling young people ready to process my translation requests? I looked up the address of one of the companies on Google Maps and found myself standing, virtually, in front of a small, rundown office building in Tokyo with a fast food restaurant on the first floor, and no apparent signage or other evidence of the existence of the esteemed company and its hundreds of staff. Odd. As anyone who has been to our office or even looked at our website knows, Honyaku Plus is located in a similarly puny office building—such are the realities of business—but we at least hang out a shingle!

I also ran a Whois search on the URL and found that it was owned by a large Internet research and marketing firm.

What is going on here exactly?

If I were to hypothesize, I would say that someone contacted translation companies specializing in different fields, created the webpage, and then SEO’d the bejeezus out of it. This is common enough, but the fact that they hide their identity and give the consumer the idea that this is not paid for advertisement? That is false advertising.

After discussing this subject internally, we decided that the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing approach is not who we are as a company. There is no sin about talking about how good you are, and it is generally better to promote the best side of your business rather than talking about how you screwed up that project or how this client hates your guts. However, there are limits.

To translation buyers, caveat emptor.