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Translation, Localization and Transcreation – The Power of Language

Diana Santana - Project Manager

My mother is from Puerto Rico and my father is from Colombia. As a result, this has led to some confusion throughout the years regarding language but has also expanded my knowledge of it and the importance of knowing who you are speaking to. For example, in the summers when I vacationed in Colombia, I recall when my relatives asked me if I wanted a “gaseosa” to which I responded with “que” meaning “what?” I thought they were recruiting me for a chemistry experiment of some kind. Growing up I didn’t drink much soda, but when I did, we all called it “soda.” I also learned “pitillo” in Colombia means “sorbeto” in Puerto Rico which translates to a straw. This is just a small sampling of the two worlds I live in.

Language is not one size fits all. Each language has its dialect throughout countries and even regions within each country. This is why it’s imperative that you are aware of who your target is when creating content, brand campaigns and products. There are three main things to keep in mind to achieve this:

Translation is the process of converting text from one language into another while maintaining the original meaning as accurately as possible. It is commonly used for documents, legal contracts, technical manuals, and other text types where conveying precise information is essential. Translators work diligently to ensure that the message remains faithful to the source language. Hospital signage is a great example of when copy needs to be literal and clear.

Localization goes beyond mere translation, as it involves adapting content to suit the cultural, linguistic and regional preferences of a target audience. It considers factors such as date formats, currencies, measurements, and even regional nuances, making the content feel native to the specific audience. Localization is crucial for software, websites, products, and any content that requires customization for different regions or countries. One example of where this knowledge may have been useful was when Walmart attempted to introduce its philosophy of low prices and USA brands to the German market in 1997. It was a billion-dollar lesson to Walmart that it is very important to truly understand the culture you are about to go into and the need to compromise if you are to succeed globally.

Transcreation, short for “creative translation,” is a specialized service particularly prominent in the advertising and marketing sectors. While translation focuses on accuracy, transcreation concentrates on capturing the essence of a message and creatively recreating it in the target language. The transcreator doesn’t just translate words; they reimagine the content, ensuring that the emotional impact, cultural references and intent resonate with the target audience.

Transcreation is essential in advertising because campaigns often rely heavily on wordplay, humor, local dialect and emotions to appeal to consumers. A direct translation may miss these nuances and fail to evoke the desired response. By transcreating content, advertisers can achieve the same impact in a new language and culture, leading to successful global campaigns. It’s also important to note that you may have to launch the same campaign on different dates depending on the target’s culture. By being iterative in your campaign approach, you become more relevant and thus increase your ROI. With a plethora of tools and resources to accomplish this, you can expand to new audiences you once thought were unattainable.

Transcreation involves a collaborative process between the advertiser, the transcreator, and often a team of marketing experts and cultural consultants. It requires a deep understanding of both the source and target cultures, ensuring that the final message is not only faithful to the brand’s intent but also resonates with the new audience. When it comes to initiating a new campaign, don’t make the mistake of making the translation and transcreation an afterthought. This is key to know in the genesis of any campaign so the transcreators can provide input into the creative process while it’s evolving.

Some brands that have excelled in applying transcreation to their products and services have been Coca-Cola, Nike, Vimeo and Intel to name a few. They went beyond and applied the nuances to each target with the relevant message and visuals across multiple platforms. Coca-Cola transcreated the “Share a Coke” campaign for Vietnam which included hiring Vietnamese actors for the ads and filming in Vietnam incorporating scenes of Vietnamese everyday life. They even went as far as using typical dishes and snacks to pair with their refreshing drink.

In summary, while translation and localization are essential for accurate communication across languages, transcreation takes the process one step further, particularly for advertising. By creatively adapting content to suit the sensibilities of diverse audiences, transcreation helps brands connect with consumers on a deeper level, facilitating successful cross-cultural campaigns and brand recognition worldwide. At the end of the day, your goal is to be relevant.

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