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Introduction to transcreation: Translator between two worlds

Introduction to transcreation: Translator between two worlds

Global advertising flops are always good for a laugh. The "Fiat Uno", for example, did not do well in Finland. After all, who wants a car that indicates that the driver is an "idiot" ("Uuno")? Ignoring the cultural and linguistic context of the respective country when launching international campaigns can have embarrassing results. This is where transcreation comes in – creatively transferring the message to the respective foreign language in a way that is suited to the target group in question.

Whether it's a slogan, flyer, mailing or online product offers: When advertising messages come across wrongly abroad or don't come across at all, it is very often due to poor adaptation. Anyone who wants to communicate successfully across the globe must ensure to take the other cultural and linguistic regions with all their facets and all their stylistic quirks and refinements into account. This is why transcreation is becoming increasingly popular for global marketing campaigns. Because with transcreation, contents and messages are not translated word-for-word, but are instead transported into the respective language world taking the cultural environment into account.

»You want to conquer the German market? This checklist shows you how transcreation can help you do just that. As a professional translator and copywriter, I transform your English texts into catchy messages which set your brand in the right light in the German language – and appeal to the desired target group.«

An example of successful transcreation: Bonn-based confectionery experts Haribo did not simply translate their cult advertising slogan "Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso" word-for-word into English. Instead of "Haribo makes kids happy, and grown-ups too", the company's advertising message there is the far more melodic and smooth "Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo." In other countries, too, the claim was expertly adapted to the local context and linguistic rhythm. The French version is particularly charming: "Haribo, c'est beau la vie – pour les grands et les petits."

Using transcreation to enter new markets

As you can see, transcreation is about an analogous, free and creative transfer of language. The new message reads fluently and lively – and conforms entirely with the language of the target group. As such, it achieves the same effect and awakens the same emotions as the original. After all, this is the decisive factor. In this way, companies can create a positive image on the international stage – and successfully enter new markets.

The "transcreator" acts as a kind of translator between the worlds. To do so, he or she requires many years of experience and an extremely strong sense for the language, profound national knowledge and, ideally, experience in (agency) PR or advertising. With these skills and experience, he or she has the ability to hit the right stylistic note even when the original text is full of cultural references, word plays and metaphors. Coca-Cola rival Pepsi would have been well advised to take advantage of a transcreator in Asia. Its slogan "Pepsi brings you back to life" was simply translated into Chinese as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave" ...

Appealing to the desired target group

Before getting started, it is essential to have a good briefing (tip: Find out more about the briefing here), also known as the "creative brief" in an advertising context. Let's take Swatch as an example − the Swiss watch company who contracts me to take care of their translations. Germany is an important sales market for Swatch. The online offers and the language in the German Swatch store are therefore aligned consistently with the national users. Client specifications such as the brand styleguide and glossary provide information about the strategy, target group, wording, tonality and do's and don'ts of writing style/spelling. But personal initiative is another essential: In order to get a comprehensive overview, I conduct research to find out which brand campaigns are currently running, for example, how the company presents itself on the whole and in social media (e.g. on Facebook, YouTube, in press texts) or context-specific details, such as collar shapes with Eton.

Only then does the actual work begin – finding the best words to convey your message. It's not always easy. Not even, it appears, for global players with a wealth of experience in international campaigns such as Kentucky Fried Chicken: At the opening of the first KFC restaurant in Peking, the US fast food giant did not welcome its guests with the Chinese equivalent of the famous brand claim "It's finger-lickin' good" but rather with the appetizing variant "Eat your fingers off". Well then. Bon Appétit.

»Do you have any wonderful examples of translation errors? Or do you need support in entering the German market? Take a look at the checklist – it shows what transcreation can do. I would be happy to advise and accompany you as an experienced language mediator between the two worlds: «