Marcela Belianska

12. September 2023

Does your agency ask for a creative brief before translating your texts? Examples of how this could end for you

When your elaborate marketing content has been working wonders on the domestic market for years now, you expect it to have the same effect with customers abroad. And yet, you're shocked to find your translated content has failed to deliver and left wondering what went wrong. As you search for answers, let's flashback to the beginning of the translation cycle: did your agency ask for a creative brief? If not, then you may have found the root of the problem.

Marketing texts rely heavily on creativity and on a specific method of brand communication with both existing and potential customers. A brand will create and fine-tune its own unique tone that will help build customer relationships, add flair and uniqueness, and often set the brand apart from the competition. You can maintain the same level of sophistication for your marketing communication abroad with the help of transcreation. But it’s important to get a good grasp of it from the moment you place your order.

Thanks to transcreation, the strength of your brand’s voice will resonate beyond borders

Transcreation is a solution designed to ensure your marketing content has the same level of pizzazz in a foreign language abroad as it does at home in your native tongue. It’s not like standard translations because the way the translator approaches the text is completely different. While a translation seeks to replace the original words with their foreign language equivalents, transcreation adapts the text in a way that preserves the brand’s unique voice so that it will sound just as appealing and relevant to the people and culture of the target country as it does on the home front.

Transcreation is most often used to translate the following:

The task of transcreation is to adjust key ideas so that they’re equally as emotionally appealing for the target audience while also sounding authentic.

There’s one big mistake that’s made all too often, and it’s a mistake many business owners tend to disregard. They invest a lot of time and money into putting together ad campaigns and are convinced that whatever they come up with will be just as successful abroad as it is at home.

But they couldn’t be more wrong. For instance, let’s take a look at our neighbour, the Czech Republic. The historical connection between the Czech Republic and Slovakia is unmistakable, but it doesn’t take a marketing expert to notice that there are different shopping behaviors, language nuances, different senses of humor, and cultural differences that don’t always “translate” and must be taken into account.

Transcreation requires experienced specialists

If the differences between standard and creative translations are any indication, transcreation is not for every translator. In order for content to be adapted in a way that’s relevant to the target audience, it must be handled by experienced copywriting experts who have mastered the conventions of marketing and current trends, who know the target market, and who possess a “refined” vocabulary in the target language. This will ensure your translation hits a home run with foreign audiences.

Before the translator (or shall we say “transcreator”?) begins working, not only must they have ample information on the company and its products, services, and customers, but also they must understand what the main marketing message is that the resulting text is supposed to convey.

The translator will find all this information in the creative brief.

What’s the purpose of a creative brief?

A creative brief usually comes in the form of a document with very specific questions directed towards the client. Ideally, the client will provide as much information as possible so that the transcreator will have a solid grasp of the brand and marketing aims. Thus, an experienced translation agency will reach out to you with a request to fill out a short form after you order their service.

At Translata, we use a transcreation brief made up of 4 parts:

1. Company introduction
We want to get behind the curtain and get to know you and your products or services. We’re interested in how your products or services came into being, how they got their names, how you make them, what makes them unique, why you do what you do, and what values you identify with.

2. Target audience
We need to know their age, where they come from, where they work, what they enjoy, how your products and services help them, and what influences their shopping behaviour.

3. The way your brand communicates
Details on the tone and style of communication are essential to a transcreation’s success and the final product must maintain the same level of consistency in terms of how it speaks to the audience.

4. Specifications for the final result
We’re interested in knowing whether you use specific terminology and where the translated text will be used and in what format and scope.

The information from the creative brief is extremely important for the final quality of the translation and will shorten the delivery time as the translator will not have to search for this info themselves. And to be fair, no one knows the ins and outs of your business better than you do.

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How might a transcreation turn out WITHOUT doing a creative brief?

Ignorance does no one justice, and marketing not only makes brands more visible but also exposes their flaws.

Preparing a creative translation without information from a briefing puts you at great risk and can lead to two scenarios:

As Warren Buffet puts it: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Many companies are well aware of this, and their translation faux pas have been spreading all over the internet for years as warning examples.

HSBC, which has offices all around the world, spent millions of dollars on its campaign with the main slogan “Assume Nothing”, which was translated as “Do Nothing” in several countries. Surely when you’re trying to encourage people to use your services, you’re not going to tell them to “do nothing.” After a failed international campaign, the bank ended up paying $10 million USD for a new campaign with a much catchier slogan: “The world’s private bank”.

The luxury brand Parker Pen experienced harsh times in Mexico. The original slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” was a cause for confusion, as the English word “embarrass” and the Spanish word “embarazá” sound similar. And indeed, this resulted in embarrassment for the company. Because in Spanish, “embarazá” means “to get pregnant”, so Mexican audiences would read on billboards that Parker Pen “won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you”.

The German car brand BMW insulted the United Arab Emirates when it inappropriately used the UAE national anthem in local advertising for its cars. In the spot, Al Ain Football Club sings the Emirates’ anthem when they suddenly hear the sound of BMW cars and run over to them mid-song. The intense emotions BMW wanted to convey were not met with understanding. The Emirates accused BMW of considering their cars more important than their national anthem.

Your reputation is how people remember you

A creative brief is a simple tool that helps the translator get to know your brand in more detail so that the texts produced strike the right chords with foreign customers. It also saves you from potential embarrassment. After all, it only takes one badly chosen word for your campaign to go completely haywire. That’s why we recommend taking the time to fill out a creative brief and including as much detail as possible.

Marcelka has been a part of our team pretty much since the beginning and we're so grateful for her building strong, quality relationships with interpreters who, in turn, have helped us become the lead interpreting provider in Slovakia. As a trained network operator, she can instantly suggest the most qualified interpreter for your event and can also arrange for all the interpreting equipment you'll need, which she has great insight on. Marcelka is an expert on the most complicated interpreting contracts, and she celebrates a successful end to each of them with a (well-deserved) glass of sweet white wine.