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  • Writer's pictureStefanos Karampalis

What is Creative Translation in Marketing?

Any company that sells their product in another country has to make changes to their marketing copy in order to sell it internationally. The apparent explanation is that individuals in other countries may not be able to understand the original language.

Brands like McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Coke all do it in order to sell in global markets.

The process of translating the original marketing copy into another language, tailored to the needs of a specific market, is known as creative translation or transcreation. Basically, a translator takes marketing material and translates it so that the new audience will understand it. This is not the same as direct or literal translation, which translates word for word.

Instead, a creative translator takes the content written to represent a brand or a product and rewrites it in such a way that the target audience in another country gets it and so it doesn’t distort the brand identity or the product. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, it may be if you’re a really great marketing translator. But there are a ton of things that have to be considered when transcreating.

First, not all English words translate easily into another language. Some words don’t have a direct translation. Like the brand Puffs. In the United States, they identify that brand with tissue. In other countries, the word “Puff” means something entirely different and would hurt the brand.

Second, humor and idioms do not translate well. Idioms are a set phrase and can be dependent on a specific culture, which means it would be understood and accepted only in that culture. And what one group of people finds humorous may be offensive to another group.

Slogans are another area that can be tricky.

So when using creative translation in marketing, the translated copy has to convey the same marketing message in whatever language it is being translated to. This means the translator has to consider cultural preferences and idiomatic expressions, and the translation should not use any words or meanings that are offensive to the target audience. It should strengthen the brand’s identity globally and preserve its unique qualities.

A translator must be aware of the audience for whom they are translating. They must take into account any linguistic subtleties or ambiguities. To be able to balance language and culture with the brand identity and message, it's critical to understand specifics and cultural variances. Colors, for example, have diverse meanings in different cultures, and specific colors are associated with different things. In western culture, we associate white with peace. White, on the other hand, is connected with grief in China. The translator must have a thorough understanding of their target audience in order to rule out anything that does not match with the target market and might potentially harm the brand.

While all of this seems logical and feasible, doing it takes time. The client must define clear expectations and then give the translator creative license to adapt the marketing copy, focusing on meaning, brand values, and tone of voice rather than the words. The literal meaning may deviate from the original marketing text, but the brand values should not be altered no matter what. Headlines and taglines have to be considered. Sometimes, that’s the first and only thing someone reads before they make a decision about reading the entire piece. And because some languages translate into longer sentences than the English text, the translator has to consider the space allowed for the new copy to fit in to.

The overall goal for creative translation is to present the copy in the language understood by the target audience, while making it seem like it was written for them originally and while not offending them or damaging the brand.

I hope you learned what a creative translation in marketing is. Reach out to me if for creative English to Greek translation ideas.

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