Sometimes, try as we might, we can’t find the words to say exactly what we want. When we finally find them, they may not be easy to translate. Sayings, cultural differences, puns. Not all language options can be translated word for word while retaining their original meaning.

This struggle is particularly true for creative language. Marketing campaigns are one particular area where this struggle is often seen. The ingenuity, creativity and flexibility of marketing texts can be difficult to translate correctly. The solution? Transcreation.

Why is transcreation necessary?

The term transcreation is a combination of two words. It is a mixture of translation and creation. People who work in marketing and advertising use this term most frequently. Transcreation can help duplicate marketing messages in a way that hides the fact that they are a translation. Ideally, this process should provoke the same emotional response in the audience as the original message did.

Culture plays an important role in the success of an advert. It is important to ensure that all marketing materials feel as though they were specifically designed for the culture they are targeting. Advertisers must make their audience feel a certain way. Finding out what is culturally important to them will make that process much easier.

How is transcreation used in marketing?

Globalisation has led many companies to extend their marketing campaigns to other countries and this may mean running campaigns in many different languages. Because language is so intertwined with culture, it is important for marketing experts to hire professional transcreators to assist them in the transcreation process. A transcreator is usually a professional translator with creative writing skills.

What may seem like a direct translation could lose the essence of what made the original text so effective from a marketing perspective. Slogans that contain metaphors, similes, rhymes, puns or alliterations are examples of why transcreation is so important. These creative writing techniques do not necessarily translate literally into other languages.

What are the translation challenges in marketing?

When entering a foreign market, advertisers have three options. Translate an existing campaign, run a new campaign locally or run an international campaign in English. If a marketing team opts for the translation route, they must incorporate transcreation into their process.

Transcreation can be difficult and involves more work than direct translation but is well worth the extra effort. When an advertising agency or marketing team does not hire a professional translator for this process, they can end up with unsatisfactory results in foreign countries. At times the entire campaign can fail or result in a scandal.

Pepsi is an unfortunate example of the dangers of skipping transcreation in marketing. Between 1963 and 1967, Pepsi tried to market its products in China. The slogan they used in English-speaking countries was “Come alive with Pepsi”. However, when they tried to translate that English text into Chinese, the result was disastrous. The translation ended up meaning “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” in Chinese. It is not exactly a product that will prove very popular with the public. For a product to successfully enter a new market, all aspects of its marketing campaign must be adapted to the target culture.

Rocío González

Author Rocío González

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