Nobody is more aware of the importance of content and copy that goes straight to the heart than marketing and advertising specialists. And also of how frustrating it is to stand by and watch as the nuances and emotions of their messages go up in smoke during the translation process. And I know, because back in the time when typewriters still existed and I worked at McCann and Altavia advertising agencies, I always had to squeeze my stress ball when the translation agency delivered yet another lukewarm concoction of the original text I had provided.

Bye translation, hi transcreation

Was it my fault? Had I not given the translation agency a sufficiently clear briefing? Could be! To be honest, I don’t remember, it was simply too long ago. But what I do know is that a good translation partner – whether freelancer or agency – must ask the right questions and offer the right level of service. And when it comes to marketing and advertising messages plain and straightforward translations simply don’t work. If you want your brand, service or product to flourish on the international scene and not wither on the vine, your content needs to be transcreated. It’s as simple as that.

Transcreation – whut?

Or perhaps it’s not that simple. I can hear the cogs turning: surely a translator just has to translate efficiently so that we are happy and our customers are happy and everyone is happy and we can get on with our day?

Well in a way yes, but actually no. We take a more structured approach. Let’s first of all clarify exactly what translating entails!

Translation is a process whereby a source text is converted into a target text. The emphasis is placed on ensuring that the translation is coherent with and faithful to the original text, both in terms of vocabulary and structure. When translating it is very important that the correct terminology and appropriate idioms are used. This standard translation process is particularly suitable therefore for informative, technical and legal documents for instance, where even punctuation plays an important role and where a mistake in terminology could result in a disaster in court.

Transcreation takes a quite different approach. It also involves translating text, but in addition to conveying the message, it homes in on emotions, nuances and creativity. So it’s not enough to just convey the message, one has to ensure that the audience feels the same emotion when reading the text. Some examples of where this is important are: slogans, titles of newsletters, main headlines on advertising posters, or headers on your website. A transcreated text often differs significantly from the original in terms of wording and structure.

I need a transcreation NOW

HARIBO, example 1

Marketing and advertising messages often use plays on words and juggle with tone of voice and rhythm; they may include cultural references and humour. They have one objective in mind of course and that is to grab and hold the audience’s attention. So it would be a pity to waste all the copywriter’s efforts to reach international markets by using lukewarm concoctions like Children and grown-ups love it – the happy world of Haribo® in which there is no rhyme or reason! 🤭

But congratulations to the transcreators of Haribo, who succeeded nicely in adapting the rhythm of the slogan for the Dutch, French and German markets. 👇

(NL) Haribo maakt kinderen blij, ouderen horen ook daarbij.

(FR) Haribo c’est beau la vie, pour les grands et les petits.

(DE) Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso.

They have rhythm and rhyme that are just as effective as the original don’t you think? (Are you interested in discovering the art of translating slogans? Then be sure to check out our article The art of translating slogans).

I want to make sure my multilingual slogans have the same rhythm and rhyme as Haribo

AUDI, example 2

The joy of working on a transcreation is that you have as much freedom as you want, as long as you strike the right chord with your target audience. And sometimes that means not translating the tagline at all. Take the example of Audi – Vorsprung durch Technik.

The German car brand chose not to translate this world-famous slogan in its international campaigns. Have you heard of Deutsche Gründlichkeit (German thoroughness)? There you have it. German equals quality and solidity values that are appreciated around the globe. So, why would it abandon its strongest asset? Smart move!

My marketing campaign needs to be transcreated

NIGHT ORIENT, example 3

In the spring of 2021, the advertising agency Braconnier came knocking at our door. It wanted us to be its partner for transcreating the slogan of a new mocktail collection called Night Orient, aimed at a launch in Flanders.

“La tête à l’endroit” was a nice play on words on “la tête à l’envers”, which means “drunk”. But not easy to adapt for the Flemish market. In Dutch, there is no equivalent expression for “la tête à l’envers”, so it’s impossible to create a direct counterpart to “la tête à l’endroit”.

Incidentally, when transcreating, you always translate within a particular context, which almost always includes an image or video material. Which was also the case here. So the transcreated slogan also had to make perfect sense within the context of the advertising video. Which you should definitely check out, it’s a total mood. 😎

And our solution was: “Hou het hoofd cool” (Keep a cool head) – in the sense of “enjoy summer parties without hangovers, without embarrassing situations thanks to Night Orient refreshing 0% alcohol mocktails “. And the campaign was a great hit in both the north and south of Belgium. 🥂

I want my multilingual copy to rock

DELVAUX, example 4

Transcreations do not just apply to advertising slogans or catchphrases. We also transcreate your content to make sure your audience has an emotional connection to your product. We’re always proud about our work for Delvaux, the Belgian luxury leather goods brand. We have been handling all its communications in Dutch, French, Italian and Japanese since 2018.

Delvaux is the epitome of elegance and refinement, and it wanted this image to extend to its multilingual communication as well. As part of the process, we worked together in partnership to establish clear guidelines. We address French audiences for instance in the formal “vous” term, Dutch audiences as “u”, and we never translate the key word “savoir-faire” into English, Italian or Dutch. It simply remains “savoir-faire”. Because it sounds chic and elegant as it is and is the perfect embodiment of the brand image. And that is just one example taken from the style guide that we keep up-to-date for Delvaux.

I want transcreations worthy of Delvaux

Entre les lignes Agency, 10 years of transcreations

Transcreation is not a literal translation. It is a translation process that combines a degree of sensitivity with a solid dose of professional copywriting. And that’s not a given for everyone. So, when choosing a translation partner – freelance or agency – make sure you check whether they can also handle transcreations. If they don’t know what you are talking about – it’s a bad sign. Entre les lignes Agency has specialised in this specific approach for the past 10 years. (Read our article about 10 years Entre les lignes Agency here). 🎉

But don’t forget to prepare thoroughly and make sure you can brief your transcreation partner as efficiently and as comprehensively as possible. We will help you by asking the right questions. The more reference material you can provide, the better. What does your brand, product or service pride itself on? What values does it embody? What is the image you want to project? Do you already have a brand guide or style guide? And what about the tone of voice? These are questions that need to be answered if you are to achieve the best possible result.

A creative process

In the same way as judging a logo or assessing a text, assessing a transcreation is rarely a matter of just black or white, right or wrong (as opposed to the literal translations of legal texts, for example). Language is extremely subjective and is perceived differently by everyone. Creative content is primarily a question of style and taste therefore.

But what we are really saying is that, just like creating a logo, we can only achieve a good transcreation if we have a thorough understanding of your company and your style and desires. This is an ongoing work in progress that is bolstered by feedback, which we programme into every transcreation project. So that we can produce a result that is 100% to your liking.

A good investment

Are transcreations more expensive than regular translations? Yes, they are. But the better your copy, the greater your commitment, conversion and growth rates. So why wouldn’t you want to invest in a quality translation for your international markets right from the start so that you are assured everything will run smoothly from day one rather than being forced to have to start from scratch again after a while. That will cost you twice as much money. It wouldn’t be the first time that we had to draw on all our resources to help new clients rework translations that make no sense. An embarrassment you want to avoid!

I believe in transcreation

Entre les lignes Agency transcribes, translates, transcreates and writes on-brand content for Belgian and international clients that really appeals to local target audiences. Some of our clients (>100) who have entrusted their creative multilingual projects to us include Delvaux, Cowboy, Kanal-Centre Pompidou, Sisley, Ikea, Samsung, Renault, the European Union, Lampiris, Serviceplan and Head Office.

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