Marketing translations: between reproducibility and creativity

Global companies expect the translation of their marketing messages to be not only correct, but also culturally adapted and well formulated. This goes beyond pure technical translation and requires special cultural sensitivity, linguistic skill and, last but not least, creativity.

In order to translate an advertising message into another language, the translator needs to possess cultural knowledge of the target market and a feeling for advertising language. If a translation is too literal, there is a risk that subtle differences in the language are ignored and the message does not reach the audience at an emotional-cultural level. Indeed, it is at an emotional level that brand trust is achieved, ensuring long-term credibility.

Translating a language on a cultural level above words into another language is also called transcreation, a blend of the words “translation” and “creation”. Ultimately, transcreation means a “creative translation”: for this, translators bring their cultural background knowledge and linguistic creativity into play to create the target language texts.

However, the environment of translation memory (TM) tools can be a limitation when it comes to creative translation. Working exclusively within the narrow confines of the segment structure of a TM tool inevitably leads to translations structured similar to the source text. The result may sound artificial and may not be optimally adapted to the target culture. This is why it is often advisable to translate advertising content outside the TM environment.

On the other hand, with longer advertising texts that contain a lot of product information (e.g. brochures or catalogs), it makes sense to store the content in the TM in order to be able to access it again later. This is the only way to ensure that the content and terminology of advertising messages remain consistent over a longer period of time – apart from the fact that costs and time are also saved through reuse.

In such cases we choose to use an adapted workflow:

Firstly, the marketing translation is carried out in the TM tool. The marketing translator translates in the marketing style of the original, but does not yet do the creative work, known as transcreation. The result is a marketing translation that can also be stored in TM for later consistent reuse.

Next, a transcreationist with extensive knowledge of the target market performs the transcreation outside the TM. In the second step, the linguist can “let off steam” creatively – for example, by changing the sentence structure and sequence, shortening or adding text, content adjustments, optimization of examples and references, comments on visual material, et cetera.

In short: when it comes to marketing content, the text must be tailored to the target market. This process is called transcreation. Often it is not possible to work in the tight constraints of the TM environment. If longer advertising content still has to be stored in the TM, we select an adapted workflow. This means producing a marketing translation using the TM tool and subsequent transcreation outside of the tool. The advantage: marketing content also appears in the translation memory and it can be reused.