This article is partially a response to a blog posting “Why the Google Translate Widget Hurts Your Brand“. The message of that posting can be expressed also in more general terms: Why machine translation (MT) hurts your brand?
However, real-life examples show that companies and well known brands like eBay, Microsoft and TripAdvisor do not think that MT hurts their brands. Quite contrary, they use MT on a regular basis and publish machine translations to their clients as such, without any proofreading or checking. Obviously companies like these care very much about their brands. Yet they find that publishing text translated with MT is beneficial for them. So, clearly the real-life experiences show that MT does not hurt brands, at least when MT is used correctly.
So, instead of claiming that “MT hurts your brand” it is better to say “using MT correctly enhances your brand”. Then, what should be taken into account when using MT?
First, MT is not a hammer that can be applied anywhere. It is better to compare MT to a lawnmower. Everybody knows that lawnmower is intended for cutting grass and nothing else. It you try to use a lawnmower e.g. on an asphalt road, obviously it does nothing useful and we all understand that. In the same way, we must know when and where to use MT.
Secondly, not everybody has a brand that can be hurt. Many companies have a brand in their home market but not in e.g. Spain. So, clearly offering content via MT to Spanish audience does not hurt a brand that does not exist among Spanish speaking audience. Quite contrary, offering some content via MT in Spanish will often increase your value for the Spanish speaking audience when the alternative is no content at all in Spanish. After all, in most cases even a bad translation is better than no translation.
So, instead of judging MT as inappropriate, think what is the right way and situation to use MT. That is what numerous global brands like Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Yandex, TripAdvisor, Baidu, Alibaba, etc. also do. For example, eBay uses MT to increase their sales.