Lost in translation: The importance of transcreation over translation

We’ve all seen examples of foreign advertising campaigns that, when they were translated back into English, made no sense or ended up as memes. The fact that even big businesses, when trying to advertise a product, mistake the need for transcreation with translation shows just how important it is to understand the difference. 

It’s easy to believe that merely translating promotional copy from one language to another would get the same message across, but language isn’t that easy. Just as the English vocabulary has many words for the same things, so too do other languages. Synonyms may  have slight differences that when written in a sentence can change their meaning. Advertising slogans are usually short and snappy, and perhaps rhyme, but what if the direct translation isn’t and doesn’t? Would that product sell well? Would you buy a product if the advertising seemed awkward and clunky? Transcreation is important. Instead of simply translating words into another language, transcreation is all about translating the theme or idea behind something so you end up with content that doesn’t forego context or meaning. 

Transcreation doesn’t just apply to words. Images can also be transcreated to appeal to the target audience. One perfect example is when Proctor & Gamble launched Pampers nappies in Japan. They placed the typical image of a stork carrying a baby in its beak which is fairly iconic within Western cultures. This was lost on the Japanese audience though as the more general motif found in Japanese culture is children being born from plants, most notably a floating peach. Moreover, Japanese consumers expect a lot more information if they are to buy something online; they want dimensions, diagrams and specifications. They are not fond of the minimalistic design that a Western audience is fond of so certain images may not resonate with a Japanese consumer.

Pampers pelican motif that confused the Japanese public

Transcreation is one of the hurdles of selling internationally, but it’s easy to fall into translating if you’ve budget or time constraints. If you are serious about selling outside the UK/US, then understanding the culture and language of your target market is crucial to ensure your campaigns deliver the desired tone, context, intent and style.

Here at Molzi, we craft quality content with the brand voice in mind. We can also help you expand your products globally through our dedicated multi-lingual team that understand the importance of transcreation.  If still uncertain how to go about successfully branching out globally, give us a call and we can make your advertising campaign memorable for all the RIGHT reasons. 

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