How translators and marketers can work together to sell your products internationally


Man listening with letters flying into his ear

Man listening with letters flying into his ear

A new buzz word is born

In the mid 20th century, many translation theories were brewing around the world, and Brazilian translator and poet Haroldo Campos added his theory and neologism, transcriaÇão (transcreation), to the author-oriented vs audience-oriented debate.

Decades later, in her book “Puentes sobre el mundo: (Bridges over the world..)”, Dora Sales Salvador provided perhaps the best description of  what transcreation allows:

[…] transcreation is a conscious act of aesthetic recreation, in which the translator makes use of all possible aesthetic devices and deviations for communicating the ideas of the original text effectively to the target audience. In this way, transcreation can be said to be a target-oriented, aesthetic recreation.

Campos resorts to any deviation necessary to make his works readable and to obtain the intended effect. This conscious act, also called ‘free’ adaptation, brings up the question about faithfulness to the original text as well.

Transcreation has become a trendy word among translation companies seeking to differentiate themselves from their competition and machine translation. In the same manner as localization, transcreation fits under the umbrella of terms for the many cognitive processes that take place during the act of translating.

But unlike straight up translating, transcreation goes beyond simply word-for-word translation. With the growth of globalization, the ability to translate local content for a global audience becomes a great opportunity to step into new markets, however it also brings new challenges:

  • Consumers’ access to the Internet changes their buying behavior;
  • Specialized translation professionals are insufficient to deal with the huge volumes of content produced every day;
  • Business executives need any help they can get to optimize conversion rates and accelerate sales cycles.

So, if international businesses want to succeed in passing their message across borders with even more precision, they have to revisit their communications strategies. No wonder then, translation companies have recognized this need and started marketing transcreation services.

Translating complete ideas

In a western fashion, these translation providers choose to position their offerings in dichotomies: translation vs. transcreation, translation vs. localization, transcreation vs. marketing translation, a few of them sometimes even undermining translation. But I believe that an interdisciplinary approach to the internationalization of products and/or services, fostering creative teams to complement each other in favor of an idea, produces the best results.

If international businesses want to avoid intercultural blunders overseas, their marketing teams should work together with translators. As transcreators the two disciplines should compromise and meet in the middle, in pursuit of the same goal – that is meeting the client’s expectations.

The backbone of the idea behind the message should elicit certain emotions from, and resonate with, the target audience. It may contain visual, verbal or non-verbal, auditory, olfactory, tactile elements, requiring skills beyond simple translation, focused on results and benefits to persuade consumers to change their perception about a product or service.

For the purpose of transcreating these elements, expert translators will take the key elements of an idea and creatively adapt them across media, whether printed or digital. You may find especially useful Rachel Weissbrod’s article “From Translation to Transfer” to understand how transcreation works its way from the literary field into the film-making and computer games, among other media.

As mentioned earlier, to effectively allure consumers with words requires trained minds specializing in marketing that sells, particularly relevant in these days of digital marketing, and copywriting. That is, translators as transcreators should train in the art of persuading with words and be able to culturally resonate with the target audience in their mother tongue. During the creative process of bringing the fundamental idea of your marketing campaign into words, transcreators will employ:

  • their cross-cultural competences in translation;
  • their business mindset and persuasive skills with words in copywriting;
  • their competence in the local nuances of the target language in localization;
  • and, on occasion, their skills of standardization to, for example, tone down certain elements in the message;
  • as well as their comprehension of any other complementary discipline they deem important for the project.

The benefits transcreation brings for your business

Transcreation does not work as a one-time order that will bring immediate success. Businesses should approach this service as a strategy to resort to when planning their international marketing campaigns. When bringing your message across different media, it may require a few deviations in the process, but the fundamental idea should still remain – eliciting the expected reaction from the target audience. This means that you will benefit from:

  • branding consistency over time;
  • improvement in retention levels—for example, product descriptions is the second reason why 7 out of 10 Argentineans become repeat buyers from the same website.
  • and an increase in time to market, and profit.

This list is not at all exhaustive, but it can show you the difference between cutting corners and viewing language services as a strategic investment. So, what would you do if you only have a few-second chance to attract your target audience into a buying decision? And why would you risk it to a poorly written message?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

About the author

Author: Sandra Cravero

Sandra Cravero is a Spanish language services exporter specializing in international trade, tourism and publishing, based in Santa Fe City, Argentina. Sandra is a sworn translator and certified in literary, scientific and technical translation studies. She helps small-medium business owners and their management teams take well-thought language strategies to step into Spanish-speaking markets.

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