Talking about transcreation is always tricky because no one, unanimous definition of it exists. How do I define it? First and foremost, it is a service that sits halfway between translation and copywriting and involves two languages such as English and Italian. Transcreation consists of:
writing promotional or advertising copy for one specific market
(such as the Italian market)
based on a source text
(i.e. original copy written in another language, such as English)
as though the target text
(i.e. the Italian version of the text)
were written in the target language for the target culture
(i.e. in Italian for Italians).
A combination of translation and copywriting
I consider transcreation a combination of translation and copywriting because the Italian version is rarely a simple transposition of the English copy. Instead, it is often new, original copy. If it is not possible to faithfully reproduce the source text in a way that maintains its communication effectiveness, then it will need to be recreated in the target language.
Many people think transcreation is only relevant for global advertising campaigns for huge brands, particularly FMCGs. Indeed, Italian TV ads are often created in English first then adapted for the Italian market (such as this one where I carried out the Italian transcreation and directed the dubbing). It is an undisputed fact that B2C companies are the biggest ad spenders: P&G, Samsung and Amazon all rank among 2018’s top spenders globally. But my definition of transcreation encompasses any text where the information-to-persuasion ratio – to borrow an expression from Professor Ira Torresi – is more weighted towards the latter. In other words, any text that aims to persuade, rather than be a mere source of information. And texts which aim to persuade are not only ads for consumer products but also brochures which promote a company’s image by sharing its mission, vision, and values.
Italian B2B transcreation case study: Technoform’s corporate brochure
For this reason, transcreation can prove to be a valuable resource for the B2B market too. Take Technoform, a German company with a global presence that provides standard and tailored plastics solutions. Its new corporate brochure is very clear and engaging precisely because it reflects the company’s personality and core values, which include empathy and clarity. Technoform’s desire to communicate with its customers is clear from the title. In the German version, the title urges its customers to Sprechen wir über Lösungen (“Let’s talk about solutions”).
However, the English version is slightly different.
Instead of Let’s talk about solutions (a literal translation of the German version), it is Let’s talk solutions. Straight away, this title communicates the positive, practical attitude of Technoform and its people. And so, “Parliamo di soluzioni”, a literal translation of the German, would not cut it for the Italian version. I wanted my Italian transcreation to capture the feel of the original. Something like Soluzioni: parliamone (Solutions: let’s talk about them).
For this transcreation project, the company’s Italian office asked me to use the English version of the brochure as the source text, but to not lose sight of the German version. You see, Goethe’s language is very precise, particularly when within technical fields. As a result, having the ability to constantly compare the two brochures helped me immerse myself in the material.
Let’s talk solutions is full of compelling headings which make use of word play (including an acrostic where the first letter of each sentence spelled a new word!) and other rhetorical devices beloved of advertising language. A lot of thought had gone into each paragraph, which were carefully written and punchy. Time and again, I needed to assess the best way I could turn the copy into Italian. On some occasions, I deviated considerably from the source text, but I always ensured it respected Technoform’s tone of voice.
Transcreation good practice
Although it was a brochure, a form of long copy, we decided to follow short copy transcreation conventions. This involved multiple headline suggestions, an English backtranslation of the whole brochure so that head office could evaluate it, and a rationale (once again, in English) to explain my creative, stylistic, and terminological choices. This project involved considerable hard work, but I believe it represents transcreation good practice, and these are just a few examples of how I have helped B2B companies create successful marketing communications.
Following our company’s rebranding, we hired Claudia to collaborate on the transcreation of our corporate brochures. It wasn’t just about translating the copy, but also making it culturally relevant for the intended audience – all the while respecting our corporate identity. Well, she did an excellent job in accurately reflecting our identity, both on a linguistic and conceptual level. We consider Claudia to be a very valuable partner who we will trust with our future projects as well.Barbara PerazzoloTechnoform