At TSI, many of our long term clients come from the advertising industry. For decades, we’ve worked closely with both third party as well as internal ad agencies and firms to ensure their campaign’s message isn’t lost in translation. From our experience, the most difficult part of translating for the advertising and marketing industry is transcreation.
We touched on the concept of transcreation in a previous article, but to recap, transcreation deals primarily with copy written for the advertising industry. It is used to create an understanding of the meaning of the message and not simply a translation of the individual words.
Let’s look at some common business slogans that word for word have little meaning in a foreign language, without being transcreated into a slogan that would reflect the meaning in that other language.
Heinz – “Beanz Meanz Heinz”
Due to the clever and unusual spelling, this works only in English. If one were to try and find a translation using any of the well-known online translation programs the answer would come back as “Beanz Meanz Heinz”. I asked different translators to ‘transcreate’ this slogan into Spanish and received the following results.
Frijoles favoritos Heinz --- Heinz beans are favorites
Cuándo quiera frijoles pida Heinz --- When you want beans ask for Heinz
Frijoles significan Heinz --- Beans mean Heinz
This last one is not quite as clever as the English, but you get the picture.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes – “They’re GR-R-R-reat”
This slogan is difficult to translate. It’s based on the fictitious character Tony the Tiger. Why Kellogg’s featured a tiger eating Frosted Flakes is anybody’s guess, but apparently it works. Frosted Flakes have been around for a long time and are still a popular breakfast cereal. I imagine it’s due to the crunchy feeling and the sugar rush associated with the sweetened cereal. The reason this is difficult to translate or to come close with transcreation is due to the GR-R-R-reat that emulates a tiger’s growl. I sent this to to different translators and received the following.
Un rugido de energía – A roar of energy
¡GR-R-R-andiosos! – GR-R-R-reat! (my favorite)
Ten un día salvaje - Have a wild day
Son lo MÁS de lo MÁS - They are the MOST of the MOST
Simplemente geniales - Simply great
Skittles – “Taste the Rainbow”
I really like this slogan, although I’ve never eaten a Skittle. The word sounds a little too much like spittle to pique my appetite. But apparently it has been successful throughout the years. After all, rainbows are beautiful and somewhat mysterious the way they appear during a rain shower. Here are the translations to this happy slogan.
Un arco iris de sabor – A rainbow of flavor
El gusto multicolor – The multicolored taste
Saborea el arcoíris - Taste the rainbow
Disfruta con el Arco Iris - Enjoy the Rainbow
Dejate llevar por el Arco Iris - Get carried away by the Rainbow
Despega con el Arco Iris - Take off with the Rainbow
It’s not often that we get requests for such popular slogans as the foregoing examples, but we do come close with companies wanting a special slant on their branding. When these requests come in, we choose translators who work in advertising or who are creative writing specialists. We want them to let their imaginations soar and create solutions that are unique and effective.
Using non-native speakers for translations that rely on transcreation is a risky bet. Much like idioms presenting difficult issues when crossing languages, transcreation has the same potential pitfalls. Our translators at TSI are native speakers and specialize in the industry for which they are translating.
Do you have a product or a campaign that is being expanded overseas? Do you want to freshen up previously translated advertising collateral? Reach out to us for a consultation or a quote. We are more than happy to get you the help you need: TSI - We're GR-R-R-owing your business internationally.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.