The translation of marketing slogans is a specialist skill. Copywriters can spend hours agonising over the perfect headline for your brand, so the last thing you need is that being lost in translation.
Good translations go unnoticed, but bad ones stick out like a sore thumb. When HSBC launched the campaign ‘Assume Nothing’ into new markets, they made a huge oversight. Their tagline, which they had been using for over 5 years, mistranslated to ‘Do Nothing’ in many territories. Whilst the internet certainly got a laugh, it cost HSBC £6.8m to rectify the problem.
Here’s how to avoid a language fail when translating marketing slogans and headlines.
Translating marketing slogans in 4 steps
Step 1: Transcreation
Transcreation is a blend of translation and creativity. Specialist creative translators will take the essence of the source material and create new material which is crafted specifically for the local market. Your creatively localised content will be written specifically for your customers in that region, making them feel that the message has been drafted with them in mind. Transcreation has the power to create marketing content which will have maximum impact for your local customers.
Step 2: Commentary
Alongside the suggested slogans/headlines for each market, a linguistic commentary for each is provided to confirm how the local market has been taken into account and the messaging retained during transcreation.
Step 3: Back-translation
Literal back-translations of each slogan/headline are also provided for marketers to understand how the slogans have been adapted for overseas audiences.
Step 4: Market review and approval
Having someone who either works for your company or knows it very well, on the ground in the local market can be hugely beneficial. They will give you crucial insight into any nuances around how the brand is received in their territory and any local industry information that might be useful. A good translation partner will work directly with your in-market champion from the start to help mitigate challenges, speed up the translation process, meet deadlines and keep costs down.
Transcreation in practice: I’m lovin’ it
As we’ve said, transcreation is a blend of translation and creativity, it’s a staple for many marketing translations. But it can be hard to clearly explain the difference between translation and transcreation. Rather than try and tell you, we’ll show you, with a little help from McDonald’s.
You can’t hear the words ‘I’m loving’ it’ without singing badabababa. The jingle is as synonymous with the fast-food brand as the slogan. But how do you translate ‘I’m loving’ it’ for McDonald’s global audience? You guessed it: transcreation. The ‘creation’ part of the word means paying close attention to cultural differences in languages and creating a slogan that may sound different, but is perfectly suited for the customers it is targeting.
The original English, “I’m lovin’ it”, is colloquial and laid back in tone, which works well for the US and other English-speaking countries. But take a look at this Brazilian Portuguese McDonald’s advert:
This variant moves quite far away from the original English in terms of the meaning and the style. ‘Amo muito tudo isso’, which translates to ‘I very much love all this’, is a lot more expressive. The style of Latin American language is seen through the use of the intensifier ‘very much’.
The German variant, ‘Ich liebe es’, literally translates as ‘I love it’, which is more direct and reflects the German language.
Transcreation is a specialist skill that creates content which is fully localised for the specific market. It’s ideal for the translation of marketing slogans and helps your messaging shine on a global scale. Crucially, it takes the essence of the message, but creates new material which takes into account the cultural nuances of the target market. By creating localised versions of your copy you can truly engage your audience – just as McDonald’s have done.
P.S. If you’re looking for more insight into delivering effective multilingual marketing campaigns, check out our free guide.