Translation is a hard-working, dependable process. But when you need to create an emotional impact in another culture, you’ll soon reach its limits. That’s where transcreation comes in.
A good translation is a faithful reflection of the source text. Translators are trained to deal with ideas and words that simply don’t exist in the target language. However, their skill levels can vary when it comes to writing persuasive copy. And a cost-per-word pricing model doesn’t recognize that some words need more care than others.
We recommend transcreation for texts with high emotional impact. Specialist transcreators capture the source content’s meaning, but they’re free to rewrite and adapt the copy for maximum local effect. Your customers will feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
Matching your content with the right service and linguists means no compromise on quality. It also helps you to prioritize your spend for when it most matters. You won’t always need transcreation, but here are four examples when it’s essential.
1. CREATIVE WORDPLAY
Rhymes, alliteration, dual meanings. Copywriters use creative language to make slogans memorable and catchy. But recreating them in another language takes more than translation. Here’s an example:
German sweetmakers Haribo have used the same slogan – a rhyming jingle – on their packaging and adverts since 1935. A straight translation would be: “Haribo makes children happy and adults too.” It’s not exactly memorable.
Instead, the creative translation used in the UK is: “Kids and grownups love it so, the happy world of Haribo.” It keeps the key concepts (kids and grownups, happiness), but adds in extra words for rhyme and rhythm.
Through effective advertising (and a great product), Haribo has achieved an awareness rating of 97% in the UK. The work on their tagline is part of that success.
Not all challenges in a source text are as easy to spot as wordplay. Untranslatable words are one such example. They’re one-word concepts that need a whole sentence in another language. For example, the Japanese word “komorebi” means “a dappled light effect that happens when sunlight shines through trees.” Such words can be difficult to fit elegantly into a translation.
Unwanted word associations can be just as much of a challenge. Take Airbnb’s #OneLessStranger campaign. It promotes a positive message of making new friends. And it taps into broader travel trends of wanting unique experiences and a feel for local life.
Unfortunately, in French and German, the same words refer to strangers and foreigners. Not quite as welcoming a message – and a good example of when transcreation is necessary.
Transcreation protects your brand. Not just from the risk of a PR disaster – all translators should flag concepts that are potentially offensive. But also from the risk of blandness and reduced impact.
Translators have less time to spend on your copy and are therefore more likely to go for the safe option. They may leave problematic concepts out, or keep campaign straplines in the source language. This dilutes your brand voice – and the impact you’ll make in your target market.
3. CONSUMER ATTITUDES
Transcreation goes beyond words to also consider cultural attitudes. And it’s not just restricted to headings and straplines.
Fashion retailer UNIQLO is active in the UK, European and US markets. Their Japanese heritage is an important part of their brand, although this poses several challenges for the UK market. For one, how do you convey Japanese values of politeness and respect in English, without coming across as overly formal or dry?
Another consideration is the positioning of UNIQLO’s innovative AIRism products. They’re made from advanced fabrics that keep you dry, release heat and absorb sweat so you feel comfortable all day long. But too much talk of sweat can make British consumers feel queasy.
In these two situations, thorough market research combined with localized tone and style guidelines will help UNIQLO appeal to UK consumers while staying true to their brand values. Transcreation could then put these principles into action.
4. COMMUNICATION TRENDS
Of course, there are other cultural trends that affect how your customers see the world – and so how you should communicate with them. This includes food, alcohol and fashion tastes, as well as broader topics, such as attitudes towards the future, individualism and tradition. Without targeted research to identify these attitudes, and a creative approach to incorporate them into your content, your communication with customers will be less effective.
Circle Pay is a US-based peer-to-peer payment app that’s also available in Germany. Circle’s English tone of voice is very playful and informal. But German consumers are more cautious of uncertainty and novelty than their American counterparts. This makes them cautious about trying new financial products. They’ll also put more store in expert advice, valuing knowledge of the past. Both of these characteristics feed into consumer attitudes towards personal finance.
Preparation is the key here. We combined audience research with a creative translation approach. Linguists balanced a “young” and informal tone with reassurance about security to help Circle win over their audience. Click here to read more about it.
Compare the investment in your English-language copy with your international markets. If there’s a clear contrast, it should come as little surprise that some of your markets are performing better than others.
Translation isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It always pays to consider your content goals. Are you aiming to inform, educate or inspire your audience? The higher the emotional impact and the bigger the change you want to create, the harder your copy has to work.
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