The International

Twitter Feed
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
« Four forces that changed advertising forever | Main | Is it time you made a promise to your customers? »

What's lost in translation is found in adaption

As an international advertising agency, we are often asked by clients to help them extend their marketing message across borders. In fact, adapting marketing messages, campaigns and websites (Duffy Adapt) is one of the three main services we offer along with market research (Duffy Consult) and campaign execution (Duffy Create).

For many brands, their first thought might be to simply hire a translation company. After all, you've spent many months crafting your marketing message. All you need to do is translate the copy into the appropriate language for whatever market you are trying to penetrate.

But delivering your message to a new audience takes more than sim­ply moving words from one language to another.

There’s nothing wrong with transla­tors – in other situations they’re per­fect for the job. But they will drain the motivational power out of your marketing message. And that moti­vational message is something you’ve spent a great deal of time and money crafting. That process probably in­cluded defining your target, getting into their heads to discover what they value and coming up with a creative execution to generate demand.

A translator isn’t concerned with what makes your customers tick. But that’s the core focus of an adap­tor. Their job is to understand your goals and why they matter to the reader. They take your core idea and find the right way to say it in the new language. And sometimes the way it’s said is quite different, on the surface at least, than what you said in the original work.

We’ve all seen the humorous ex­amples of translated marketing gone wrong. Pepsi famously launched in China with a slogan that originally read “Come alive with the Pepsi gen­eration,” but locally meant “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” But the real danger is much more subtle. It’s more likely you’ll spend your time and money on something that looks and sounds pretty good, but ultimately falls flat with the target and fails to achieve your business goals. 

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (5)

I agree of the importance of adaptation for marketing and advertising material for global audiences, however, I believe a qualified translation team with the proper specifications would create a superior product than people without the linguistic background. The ideal situation would be for the message to be professionally translated and go through a technical review phase to make sure both the linguistic and localized needs have been met. I research Quality Translation Services through my work on standards
I agree. But I would argue that if a company is providing all these functions then they are an adaptation agency and not just translation.

In our view, adaptation is translation within context. Obviously, you need the linguistic background, but you also need the ability to create meaning. And sometimes that may mean changing the copy completely for the language or local customs to get across the same idea.

The important part is to make sure your message is communicated properly to the target audience regardless of what language it is in.
June 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Duffy Agency
Naturally, these reforms will have a great impact on translation and localization. If your target audience is a Portuguese-speaking nation, it is wise to consider the ramifications of publishing material that may soon become out of date. You may also consider reviewing material that has already been translated and decide whether it may be prudent to update it accordingly.

September 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermedical translation services
well from a theoretical standpoint, adaption as you describe it IS what translator training tries to achieve. the theoretical body of work done in this field since the 1960s is extensive and a lot of it deals with what exactly it is that makes a translation is true, however, that the demands of the translation industry do not often allow individual translators the opportunity (time, money, information i.e. translation brief) to actually be as "adaptive" in their work as they would like to be or could be.and while a lot of translation today is still just the rather linear transfer of legal and other mostly fact-filled documents, providing translation services that require adaption, creativity, and getting into your target audience's heads is probably the ONE thing any translator considers a dream job.
October 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercole
The importance of a technical translation being accurate and efficient can indeed not be overstated. Especially in the ever faster moving world of globalized business, successful information and technology transfer within multinational businesses can make the difference between win or lose
February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrailey

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.