Marketing translations

With transcreation, international campaigns strike the right tone

Brand image and advertising impact are significantly influenced by language and text intention. By speaking the customer’s language, companies reach customers who understand them and feel understood. For this to be successful on a global scale, the brand message must be just as effective in the foreign language as it is in the original. The solution to this is transcreation. We explain what this is, how it works and what really matters.

Transferring advertising and marketing messages to another country and, in most cases, another culture, poses challenges – even for large brands. The fizzy drink producer Pepsi experienced this when it began to tap into the Chinese market with the claim “Come alive with Pepsi”, because the literal translation promised that “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” and completely missed its aim.

You would think that this is something that only happens in far off places – Far from it! In fact, you will find correctly translated marketing messages that do not take cultural differences into consideration right around the corner. For example, fast food chain McDonald’s wanted to present its first global brand identity, and the claim “Ich liebe es” (I love it) – developed by the lead agency from Munich – was supposed to be introduced in 120 countries at the same time. In English, the controversial “I’m lovin’ it” was chosen instead of “I love it” because it better suited the music and beat of the global sound logo, which was also new. In some cases, the claim could not be translated into other languages and remained in English.

It is also interesting to look at examples from the opposite direction, for example the perfumery chain Douglas had the claim “Come in and find out” developed for the whole European market and slipped up in its own country as a result: Many German-speaking customers did not understand the statement, or understood it to mean “Come in and find the way out again”. (A study on this subject was even named after this example). In turn, companies responded to the subsequent media reports about understanding English claims, including Sat. 1, whose phrase “Powered by emotion”, which was often translated as “Power through joy”, became “Sat. 1 zeigt’s allen” (Sat. 1 shows everyone).

The examples show that expressions and phrases are perceived differently depending on the target country or market. Signal words and stimuli may miss their intended impact, typical formulations of one cultural region may be completely atypical for another. All this can quickly lead to misunderstandings and to codes, beliefs and values being violated.

For international marketing specialists, this raises the question of whether and how content can be accurately and attractively transferred into other languages, and how to do justice to the – at times high – costs and coordination involved in creating source-language messages, without jeopardising the impact or even the brand. The answer is: Through transcreation.

What is transcreation?

In marketing, transcreation refers to transferring a text from one language to another, giving special consideration to the cultural characteristics and conditions of the target country. The term is composed of translation and creation. Alternatively, transcreation is also called international copy writing or creative translation.

What is the difference between transcreation and translation?

Translation overcomes linguistic boundaries,
transcreation overcomes cultural barriers.

A transcreation is more than a translation or a specialised translation. It involves adapting the source text to the specific needs and expectations of the target country and culture, target group and market segment, while maintaining the intention, style and tone. Transcreation focuses on conveying messages and feelings. A transcreated text triggers the same emotions and impact as the source text that was created for another country.

The transcreation is done by specialists who can translate and write texts. These are native-speaker transcreators and marketing experts who have a good command of the source language and know the cultural conditions in the source country and also understand the language, culture and mentality of the target country and the target group, and can create appropriate linguistic stimuli.

Regardless of whether the text is a claim or slogan, or is being used for displays, brochures or a website, instead of rewriting texts for each target market, transcreators creatively adapt the original document and deliver a meaningful translation of the message into the target language, much like good tour guides and interpreters do. Transcreation results in an independent text that may differ significantly from the original, but conveys its basic message in all its nuances.

Examples of successful transcreation

This is exemplified by claims or slogans that almost everyone knows in their own cultural space. They illustrate the challenge involved in ensuring the text does not lose its impact and charisma in other countries and languages, especially when they do not rely on English as a universal marketing language – as it has become known –, but instead provide a voice in France or Italy, countries that value independence. And the following campaigns work well.

Haribo 🐻
German claim: Haribo macht Kinder froh und Erwachsene ebenso!
(Haribo makes children happy and adults too!)
French claim: Haribo c’est beau la vie, pour les grands et les petits!
(Haribo means a good life, for the big ones and the little ones!)
English claim: Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo!
(Both languages also retain the rhyme)

Whiskas 🐱
German claim: Katzen würden Whiskas kaufen
(Cats would buy Whiskas)
French claim: Nourrir la vraie nature de votre chat
(Nourish the true nature of your cat)

Müller 🐮
German claim: Alles Müller, oder was?
(All Müller, or what?)
Italian claim: Fate l’amore con il sapore
(Make love with the taste)
English claim: Have it all

American Express 💵
US English Claim: Don’t leave home without it
German claim: Bezahlen Sie einfach mit Ihrem guten Namen
(Simply pay with your good name)

German claim: Freude am Fahren
(The joy of driving)
English claim: The ultimate driving machine.

How to use transcreation successfully

A successful campaign in the source country does not guarantee success in the target country or market. In order for the right messages to reach the target country or market, companies must be aware of their specific characteristics and respond to them. Therefore, transcreation is recommended for every company that …

  • strives for a successful international campaign,

  • wants to use advertising material designed in its own marketing department or with the help of a creative agency in its target markets, and

  • wants to rule out a failed market entry.

Many companies, especially small and medium-sized companies, do not have internal expertise or appropriately trained staff when it comes to intercultural competence. Leading translation service providers such as oneword offer support, advice and provide appropriate services. With transcreation, for example, we offer the marketing departments of global brands the professional opportunity to adapt advertising messages and marketing materials and use them in a targeted manner worldwide, without having to engage international network agencies or local advertising agencies.

This works optimally when companies and translation service providers also link all of the relevant workflows accordingly. Individually coordinated processes, co-created glossaries and technically sophisticated methods, such as terminology management, ensure that brand messages are conveyed in the best possible way with little effort and to a high quality.

You can find five tips for successful international campaigns here.

We will explain to you how you can effectively use the advantages of transcreation and other possibilities of marketing translation on the basis of our services or in a personal initial consultation.

Increase the satisfaction of your international partners and subsidiaries. It is precisely these people who are often dissatisfied with the translation results – not usually because of the linguistic merit of the translation, but rather because they were not involved enough or their specific word choices or corrections were not considered. In a nutshell, there is often a lack of targeted and open communication in international marketing. The solution is an effective process that treats all those involved in an appreciative and equal way using a common working environment, for example via oneReview.

Our online correction platform offers many things: one of which is enabling all parties involved – customers as well as national subsidiaries tasked with correcting and approving the texts – to easily and conveniently check and make final corrections to the transcreation results.

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