Slogans can’t be translated. They have to be transcreated. This involves using a combination of careful research skills and creativity to come up with just the right words to describe a product or organisation.
Most organisations use slogans to promote their virtues. A slogan has to encapsulate the key selling points of a product, service or organisation. It has to be concise, witty and original. Translating slogans too literally is a very bad idea. Let’s consider some slogans used for famous German products, their literal translations and their transcreated versions:
A great deal of thought and ingenuity have been used to ensure that these slogans work in their target English-speaking markets. Slogans cannot be translated, they have to be
transcreated. Transcreation involves a combination of translation and creative writing skills.
The 6-step transcreation process
When I am asked to transcreate slogans, I follow this 6-step process:
Find out details about the company, product/service, market, competitors and target customers.
Get the creative juices flowing and come up with some solutions. Aim for as many options as you can in the first instance.
If possible, share your ideas with other professionals. Two heads are better than one.
4. Sleep on it
This is a very important step. It’s amazing what the subconscious can do.
5. Select the three best options
6. Explain your rationale and provide back translations to present to the client
Explain why the solutions would work, including explanations of word play and back translations into German.
This process takes time, tenacity and talent. A 3-word slogan can take as long to transcreate as a 4,000-word text can take to translate. This is why translators with transcreation skills or experience (sometimes known as transcreators) will charge by the hour for this service.
This is definitely value for money when you consider that multinational companies pay advertising agencies thousands of euros to create slogans.
A clumsily translated slogan can damage a company’s brand. A good example is beer manufacturer Coors whose slogan ‘Turn it loose’ was translated into Spanish as ‘Suffer from diarrhoea’. It is therefore important to invest time and thought into getting it right. Using an experienced creative marketing translator or transcreator is definitely the best place to start.