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The concept of translation is as old as language itself. Translation allows communication between countries, cultures – and even time periods. For instructions, descriptions, user manuals and basic text – direct translations can work very well.
However, when it comes to marketing – it’s not always that simple.
“Advertising is based on one thing. Happiness.” – Don Draper, Mad Men. Marketing is a form of communication that relies almost entirely on emotion. Whether it’s joy, surprise, envy, or even anger – marketing works best when it makes us feel something, but often when words are translated – their feeling is completely lost.
Idioms, puns, local references, and humor are very culture-specific. KFC famously tried to translate their ‘Finger lickin’ good!‘ slogan for the Chinese market. The result? A mandarin exclamation of ‘Eat your fingers off!‘
To avoid this, localization builds on translation to also convey nuance, tone, and context.
But sometimes, even localization is not enough. Marketing is, after all, designed to resonate directly with the intended audience. And create connections with words, images, colors, and emotion.
To reach customers in the most effective way, transcreation is needed. This process not only translates the words, nuance, and tone – it conveys the intended emotion.
You can think of it this way:
Localization adapts the message.
Transcreation adapts the feeling.
When done well, transcreation allows brands to move seamlessly from one culture to another. And find immediate success in a new market.
When done poorly, the results can be comical or even worse – offensive. This hurts the brand – but it can also cost a lot of money.
Computer company Intel wanted to translate their slogan ‘Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow‘ to the Brazilian market. When translated literally, it actually implied they would not deliver on their promises. In effect, they were ‘putting it off’ until tomorrow. Naturally, this direct translation would have been very bad for business.
Instead, they developed a Portuguese slogan of ‘Intel: In Love With the Future‘. This message differed from their carefully-worded US version. But the intended feeling – and claim of being forward-thinking and progressive – remained the same.
Another successful example comes from Proctor & Gamble’s ‘Swiffer’ brand. Their English slogan of “When Swiffer’s the one, consider it done!” was transcreated into Italian as “The dust doesn’t linger, because Swiffer catches it.“
The slogan now has a different rhythm and rhyme – but it maintains the brand’s message and personality.
For marketing to be successful, translating the words and meaning is not always enough. There are images, colors and local references that also need consideration.
An American advert may show a baseball crowd eating hot dogs and popcorn. For the Japanese market, this looks odd – and disconnects the home audience.
As well as the words, tone, and feeling – imagery should also be changed to resonate properly with the target market.
This can include:
What may be acceptable (or even celebrated) in one country can be received very differently in another.
Transcreation is the method in which brands can avoid a PR disaster.
Companies entering new markets should select a translation company with a strong knowledge of many different cultures.
This ensures that the right message always gets through – regardless of the audience.
Dynamic Language is a business translation company with over 30 years of experience. We offer complete translation, localization and transcreation services in over 150 languages. We can tailor any message to any market.
For more information about us, view our range of language services.
Photo credit: Campaign Creators
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