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Copy adaptation: How to translate & adapt creative ideas

Published on January 11th, 2021

Effective copywriting crafts messages that inspire people to make meaningful purchase decisions. It is the heart of every advertising campaign and the final strike of any content marketing strategy that ends with your target audience taking action.

Influencing people’s decisions requires a balanced mix of audience understanding, psychological techniques and mastery of your audience’s native language. So what happens when you have the perfect piece of copy for a campaign and you try to translate it into other languages?

The challenge of translating copy

Copywriting is a sales-orientated art so the only measure of success that really matters is how many purchases you can attribute to the copy in your campaigns. Unfortunately, there is no formula for effective copywriting and, in many ways, the same thing can be said of translating copy.

In some cases, you may be able to translate your original copy and expect it to have the same kind of impact on a foreign-speaking audience. However, this is a rare occurrence where the direct translation maintains the original meaning and the perception of that meaning in the foreign-speaking market in question.

As we know from looking at the countless horror examples of advertising translation gone wrong, even the most innocent translation of copywriting has the potential to end in disaster.

If you look at the troubles major brands like Nike and McDonald’s have had with translating their slogans, you start to understand how complex those seemingly simple words are to capture in another language.

Copy adaptation & overcoming the translation problem

The reason copywriting is so difficult to translate is because there is such a deep meaning behind the words, which are meticulously chosen and refined to elicit a certain type of emotional response in people.

Change the slightest nuance of language in a piece of copy and its power of influence weakens.

In reality, there is no such thing as a direct translation and even the most straightforward phrase like “I eat” has different nuances in another language. So the meticulous sculpting of language copywriting relies on is lost in translation and, in many cases, it loses meaning altogether – or takes on an entirely unwanted meaning.

The solution to this issue is copy adaptation, which doesn’t aim to directly translate your copy. Instead, it considers the emotional response your copy is designed to elicit and adapts your message to have the same impact on each target audience.

On a word-to-word basis, your translated copy may be completely different to the original, but the goal is to achieve the same power of influence and inspire purchase decisions, even if the specific wording is entirely different. In other cases, your adapted copy may simply include a few carefully-selected tweaks that prevent the meaning of your message from getting lost in translation – or meaning something else entirely.

Copy adaptation is a case-by-case service where we assess the message of your campaign, the target audiences it is aimed at and find the most suited “translation” to achieve your marketing objectives in every location.

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Posted on: January 11th, 2021