Considerations when translating marketing material

I usually recommend to customers looking to translate content created to communicate and promote their products and services that they seek a “creative writing” service. I explain that this is “added value” to avoid a literal translation and to be able to adapt the content to the audience receiving the message. In this way, we ensure the “transmission” of the content in the most accurate way possible, but adapted to the culture of those who are seeking to convince their audience of the advantages and benefits of the products they promote. In other words, we are actually offering a “localization” service far more complete than a mere “translation”.

However, my question is: is there anything more basic and fundamental? I have found the answer after reviewing numerous translations of marketing materials for a variety of products and services. A common mistake that I find is due to the fact that the translator is not placed “in the shoes” of those who created (developed) the content.

The basic premise is that you cannot be an effective “marketer” without the following skills: positivity, creativity and idealism. Note that I first mention “positivity”. Countless times I have dealt with translations that express negativity either implicitly (and hidden) or, frankly, explicitly (in which you can clearly note a lack of attention by the translator). It is obvious that the biggest cheat of the two is the implicit.

Many times you notice a certain negativity in rereading the translation, usually within a much broader context than what transpires in a single segment (praise the day when we develop software tools and institutionalize “segmentation” in order to coin translation memories!).

Here is an example: “Although O.C., Inc. is best Known for the Splash, the Tricky Stone® is its longest running success.” This was originally translated in Spanish as: “Although O.C., Inc. is mainly known for the Splash, the Tricky Stone® is the one that has had a more lasting success.” In mentioning other products within the same catalog, it seems that O.C., Inc. specializes in making products that can be successful, but have a short life cycle in the market, and that the only product that overcame this karma was the Tricky Stone. In other words, there is a hidden negative connotation.

What the manufacturer wants to say is that Tricky Stone is the company’s oldest product that continues to enjoy a deserved success, although there are newer products like the Splash that have had clear success and that are largely responsible for the positioning of the company. In short, it is a “success story” and not a “defeat.”

Conclusion: before delving into the need for “creative writing” or linguistic or cultural localization, we need to translate from the perspective of the expert who developed the content in order to try to transfer the message that is wanted to be communicated in as faithful a manner as possible.