Effectively translating marketing material and other creative texts, such as books and screenplays, is a tricky business. It’s about much more than converting words from one language to another – it’s about ensuring that all the different elements that make up a text (the style, tone, idioms and analogies to name just a few) are accurately tailored to the target audience.
In short, the finished text should read as if it were originally written in the reader’s own mother tongue, and give them the exact same experience as the source textgave to readers in the original language. This process is far more complex than translation – it is what we call transcreation.
Because English is “cool”, many brands decide to save the trouble of transcreating their taglines. But even in a highly educated country like Germany (which uses a
LOT of English in advertising), 2009 research found only 25% of English taglines are
fully understood by 14-to-49-year-olds.
Transcreation is about the ability to write in your own. It’s not just English brands that often leave slogans in the original language for international audiences. Car maker Volkswagen is using its “Das Auto” line worldwide. It highlights the fact that the cars come from Germany – a country known for high-quality engineering. But in Brazil the strategy has backfired. The VW Beetle was made there for decades, and the brand was seen as an “honorary Brazilian”. This was reflected in its previous slogan, “você conhece, você confia” (“you know, you trust”). By emphasizing its foreign-ness, VW threw away an emotional bond built up over many years. By contrast, the German line was well received in Russia. Market research is crucial!
Transcreation services are commonly used for adapting website and advertising content. For common marketing communications, transcreation may include adjusting content for an oversea’s market on your company’s website, so that it includes only the types of products your company sells in that market. You may also choose to emphasize product features that resonate more with the needs or tastes of the target market.
The challenge is finding the right transcreationist for the job. Transcreationists work with language service providers that specialize in transcreation. That provider will be able to identify the individual(s) right for the job. A transcreationist must have a background in Marketing and/or Advertising, and must also have a deep command of the nuances of each language that he/she works in. The transcreationist must understand the industry of the client and be able to apply country-specific marketing tactics to their material. Transcreationists are also highly accomplished copy writers in their native language. Because of their unique skill-set, transcreationists can command a higher hourly rate than translators; and generally, transcreation is considered to be a specialty service because it requires more time for recreation. If you are trying to raise the bar in connecting more effectively with your target audience in overseas markets, then transcreation may be a good option for your company.
NON/EFFECTIVE TRANSCREATION CASE STUDIES:
1. Pronunciations Matter:
Different pronunciations in different languages can be a problem – or an opportunity. In 2009, PepsiCo found out that almost 25% of people in Argentina could not pronounce the “ps” sound. They were calling the drink “Pecsi”.
Rather than fight this local idiosyncrasy, Pepsi chose to embrace it. It ran a campaign in which its familiar branding elements were recreated using the phonetic spelling.
The message was, whether you say “Pepsi” or “Pecsi”, it still tastes better than Coke.
As a result, brand recognition increased 23%. Proof of what happens when
multinational brands work with local culture.
2. Product Names Matter:
It’s important to research your product name in the market you want to break into. Even if a certain word doesn’t “look” offensive, sometimes the way it is pronounced can give it a whole new meaning. When Vicks first introduced its cough drops to the German market, they were embarrassed to learn that the Germans pronounce “v” as “f” – and “ficken” is a crude term for “have sex” in German.
3. Concepts Matter:
Sometimes, you have to accept that a concept simply doesn’t work in another country or language. This issue occurred once with the English line “Sense & simplicity” for Philips. This is impossible to adapt for two reasons. The book – and therefore the phrase – “Sense and Sensibility” is not known in other countries. Plus, the words for
these two ideas are unlikely to be alliterative when translated. The best thing to do in such a situation is start again from brief. Sadly, in Germany Philips chose just to run the English line – which hardly anyone understood.
4. Visuals Matter:
Visuals are as important as words. And even visuals designed to be international may not be as international as you think. Besides, collors may suggest other emotions as well as visuals.Corporate campaigns produced in the USA often feature mixed-gender, mixed race working environments with whites, blacks and East Asians all represented. But in Eastern Europe, where there has been no significant immigration from Africa and the Far East, such depictions don’t reflect reality. And in Germany, they ignore the country’s largest ethnic minority – people of
Turkish origin makes up around 4% of the population. Good intentions too sometimes need to be transcreated.
5. Characters matter:
A well-known example of transcreation is the Spider-Man comic transcreated for India, in which the American character is re-created as a young Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar (A play on Peter Parker). All the elements of the original narrative were also recreated for an Indian context. In the image to the left you can see even his Spider-man suit was altered to fit with cultural tastes and norms.
6. Jingles Matter:
Transcreating jingles is not just about finding the right words – they also have to fit the tune. Gillette’s German version of “The best a man can get” failed on both counts.
“Für das Beste im Mann” (“For the best inside a man”) didn’t really make sense – facial hair is on the outside. Plus, the line was too short, so each word had to be dragged out longer than sounds natural. And it doesn’t even rhyme with “Gillette”!
The “Für das Be-e-e-est-e-e im Ma-a-an” jingle has therefore become something of a national laughing stock.
7. Idioms Matter:
Check names with native, in-country linguists. Idioms, slang and cultural associations vary from country to country, even if the same language is spoken. This way, you make sure your name says only what you intend it to say.
8. Non-Creative processes Matter:
Transcreation is not just relevant to creative copy.E.x, documents relating to recruitment policies and training manuals may not work well when translated literally, as people’s motivations and attitudes are so different across cultures. US training tends to be more interactive and hands-on, whereas people in France tend to prefer more information and less participation. If this is not reflected when preparing the French materials, they are unlikely to be as effective in France as the originals were in the US. However good a transcreator is, they can’t stay on brief unless they’ve seen the brief. And they can’t make sure the copy works with the layout unless they’ve seen the layout. Give your foreign writers all the same information you’d give to people producing communications in your own language.