The pros and cons of using AI to translate your product packaging

Clare Daley
April 22, 2024
5 min read
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The pros and cons of using AI to translate your product packaging

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the biggest buzz topic in the consumer goods industry right now, and with good reason. It’s radically transforming the way we create products and content. 

500 million people use AI-powered translation services every day. While some of these people will be holidaymakers needing help understanding a menu, many businesses use AI to translate content such as product packaging and labelling. 

AI’s ability to mass-translate product information is creating new opportunities for brands to grow internationally. 

But while there are advantages to AI translation, there are also drawbacks that your company must consider before choosing an automated service over a human translation or compliance agency.  

There are benefits to using AI translation for product labels… 

The benefits of using AI as a translation tool are the same whether you’re working with product packaging, marketing collateral, or any other written document. 

It’s cheap (or even free) to use. You can very quickly translate content into multiple languages. And you can set your own terms and timelines – rather than waiting for an external translator’s availability.  

AI is an attractive tool for start-up brands who want to get new products off the ground with limited budgets and resources. It’s also useful for translating repetitive, low-value information such as product descriptions for your online marketplace listings. 

However, there are some significant risk factors you should consider before relying on AI to translate your product labels and packaging.  

...But the dangers of AI translation could outweigh the benefits 

The big difference between using AI for product labels and other content types is the risk of mistranslation. 

If you’re writing a paragraph of descriptive copy for your website, there aren’t significant consequences if the translation is clunky. But if it’s important information like the data on your product label, AI translation can leave you vulnerable to: 

  • Legal non-compliance: the legal requirements for product packaging change from country to country. AI may not factor this in when translating information, which leaves you liable for non-compliance and can even put your customers at risk.

    If you’re a food brand, imagine if your AI tool missed a mandatory allergen off your label…

    AI platforms might also use outdated sources of information, so your packaging doesn’t meet the latest industry legislation and best practices. 
  • Reputational damage: you don’t want to be known as the brand that made an embarrassing error on its label, or who had to recall thousands of products because of a translation mistake.

    Equally, no company wants to carry the consequences of harming consumers due to incorrect or missing information on your product label. 
  • Financial impact: packaging non-compliance can result in legal penalties from industry authorities. Your business will also have to recall any products carrying incorrect information, at considerable expense. 
  • Design challenges: an AI translator can change the language of a product label, but it can’t help you tweak the copy to fit the packaging design like an expert human translator. 

While AI translation might seem like a quicker, cheaper and easier option on the surface, relying on an automated tool could have deep consequences for your brand. 

Why is human translation better for product labels and packaging? 

Translating product copy is a complex task requiring skilled knowledge and a holistic approach to ensure your packaging looks great and meets legal requirements. 

While AI can tick some of these boxes, it can’t match human expertise - especially if you’re working with a compliance agency that understands local laws affecting your product packaging and labelling. 

An expert team will offer far greater value than translating your product copy into multiple languages. They’ll use local phrases to ensure your packaging appeals to regional consumers. They’ll check that mandatory labelling meets local legislation. And they’ll help you format pack copy so that it works with your design and brand guidelines. 

Hooley Brown specialises in helping consumer brands localise products and packaging for international markets. 

Our global network of experts can translate your product labelling and check it meets regional compliance requirements and the needs of local consumers. 

Book a free phone consultation with our Director, Clare Daley, to discuss our packaging translation and compliance services. 

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Book an online call with Hooley Brown’s Co-Founder, Clare Daley.