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Why Use Transcreation For Your Multilingual Marketing Campaigns?


Standard translation isn’t enough to convert a marketing campaign into multiple languages. The linguistic complexity and creative nature of marketing messages requires a more extensive language service – one we call transcreation in the language industry.

Transcreation favours the intent of a message and the response marketers and advertisers seek to get from audiences over perfect translation accuracy. This article focuses on why intent is the priority for multilingual marketing campaigns and how transcreation gets results.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation combines translation and copywriting for the purpose of translating marketing and advertising messages. In most cases, transcreation deals with content that uses creative language techniques such as metaphors, wordplay, rhymes, irony, etc.

When translating this type of content, the creative language is often lost in the process. For example, the words no longer rhyme, the metaphor doesn’t make any sense in the target language(s) – or the idiomatic expression used as the basis of wordplay doesn’t exist in the target language(s). A good example to think of here is when translating lyrics for songs used in advertising and marketing campaigns, something which we at translate plus are experts in handling.

Translate a common idiomatic expression like “hold your horses” or “bite the dust” and you end up telling people something completely different in their own language.

A good reference here (to avoid) is KFC’s “Finger lickin’ good” brand slogan, where using direct translation would have ended up in all kinds of hot water. In fact, this particular slogan is one of the most infamous translation fails in history as it was directly translated into something more like “Eat your fingers off” in marketing campaigns for China during the 1980s.

How transcreation saves multilingual marketing campaigns

If marketing content loses its intended meaning through direct translation, then a less direct approach is required. Transcreation tackles this problem by prioritising the impact of the marketing and advertising message intended on the target audience.

So, if KFC’s slogan suggests their food is so irresistible you can’t help licking the last remaining flavour off your fingers, then this is the implication to target.

Alternatively, transcreation may take this one step further and move away from the original slogan altogether, in favour of something more relevant to the local interests of the target market. This is the approach KFC now takes with its “We Do Chicken Right” slogan in China.

It may not sound very catchy in English, but the slogan has been a huge success in the Chinese market, positioning the brand as a trustworthy source of quality ingredients.

Translating your next multilingual marketing campaign

For companies targeting multiple language markets, transcreation ensures you build the right brand image for every target audience. In some cases, the intent of the original message may resonate with target audiences in the same way, and transcreators will craft a similar message that has the same impact in the target language(s).

A good example of this would be Haribo’s “Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of HARIBO” slogan.

Direct translations of this would sound awkward in other languages, but the original intent of the message works well for almost any audience. So, in this case, transcreation simply finds the closest version that works in each target language – e.g. “Haribo makes children happy – and adults as well” in German.

The great thing about Haribo’s catchphrase is that the jingle is consistent in each language.

This jingle, however, also impacts the transcreation of Haribo’s slogans. Transcreators have to come up with a translation that fits with the jingle tune, limiting the number of syllables each version of the slogan can include.

The KFC slogan “We Do Chicken Right” for China is a good example of transcreation replacing the original message with something that better resonates with the target audience.

Coca-Cola took this to another level with its successful international marketing campaign that put people’s names on cans and bottles. Knowing that cans with “Luke” and “John” written on them probably wouldn’t have the same impact in countries like Vietnam, the company selected common local names instead and filmed localised ads in the country, featuring Vietnamese actors and scenery.

Do you need to translate multilingual marketing campaigns?

If you need to translate multilingual marketing campaigns, transcreation and cultural consultation are the key language services you should look into. As part of Publicis Groupe’s advertising and creative network, we have a strong transcreation & production team in place that can help you transcreate your messages to ensure global and local success.

For further information and advice on our creative language services, contact us today.

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