Updated: Mar 12
The average person gets exposed to upwards of 4,000 ads per day, making it harder than ever to stand out. So, it’s no surprise that companies are shifting to fun, quirky brand voices to grab your attention. Yet what works in English poses a major challenge for marketing translators.
A literal translation will almost certainly lose any puns, double meanings, or shared understanding that makes the message resonate. Transcreation, on the other hand, gives translator the freedom to adapt it not only to another language, but to another culture.
Translation vs. Transcreation
Translation is the process of rendering a source text into another language. Traditionally, translators do their best to preserve the meaning of the source text. But when it comes to creative texts such as literature and marketing, the original meaning may not mean anything to someone in another county. Worse, a more literal could mean something inappropriate or offensive.
Here’s where transcreation comes in. Transcreation, just as it sounds, is a combination of translating and creating. This process allows translators to adapt a message to make it relevant to the target audience.
And equally important, it prevents brands from launching sometimes comically bad marketing campaigns in foreign markets. KFC, for example, had its famous “Finger lickin’ good” slogan translated into “Eat your fingers off” in Mandarin. Yikes!
How to Avoid a Marketing Translation Faux Pas
Want to avoid an “eat your fingers off” bad translation? Invest in a translator who specializes in marketing and transcreation. The translator you choose should always be a native speaker of the translated language, and have a strong understanding of the country’s culture. Even countries with a shared language have variations in words, expressions, and culture. Just think of all the differences between U.S. English and U.K. English.
In short, a good marketing translation takes time, cultural understanding, and creativity. If you want to successfully get your message across, transcreation is likely the way to go!