Language is an incredibly powerful tool, especially for those in professions such as marketing where the particular sentences, phrases and individual words used must all be meticulously selected to project a particular message and meaning. When the time comes to roll out this same marketing campaign to new, global audiences it is important that the words are not literally translated, but effectively ‘transcreated’ in order to ensure the marketing message is consistent and meaningful on a world-wide scale. So, what is transcreation?

Transcreation goes one step further than translation. It maintains the subtlety and meaning of words and phrases when translated into a second language, bearing in mind cultural relevance, vocabulary and understanding. It ensures that the style, tone and context of each phrase is not lost, making it of great importance for global advertising and marketing campaigns. However, while this may seem obvious, many high-profile marketing campaigns have fallen victim to poor cultural knowledge and inappropriate use of language when transitioning from one country to another. Here, we’ve outlined three marketing campaigns that could have benefited from skilled transcreation:

HSBC – Do nothing

The global banking giant, HSBC launched a campaign in 2009 with the slogan ‘assume nothing’. While the meaning is apparent in the UK and in other English speaking parts of the world, it was translated to ‘do nothing’ in many other countries. Asking its customers to do the exact opposite of what it desired, the necessary re-brand cost the banking business around $10 million – money that they could have made if the original campaign had been transcreated successfully.

Pepsi – Bring back your ancestors

In an attempt to compete against its biggest rival, Coca-Cola, Pepsi launched a campaign with the slogan “Come alive! You are in the Pepsi generation”. Quite a bold statement, but not as bold as the statement it was reportedly making in China, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”.

Shardwoods – Bundh

Sharwoods is known and loved for its authentic foods, particularly its curry sauces. However, when it launched its “Bundh” sauce in 2013 with a £6million campaign, it quickly found out from Punjabi speakers that its latest range sounded exactly like the Punjabi word for “arse” – not something the brand would want to be associated with its “deliciously rich” food product…

Here at Language Insight we have the skills and deep understanding of language to ensure that your business does not make the same, costly marketing mistakes, transcending borders rather than offending them. To learn more about our transcreation service, get in touch with a member of our helpful team.