Brand Translations: Literal vs. Creative Translation
When taking your company overseas, brand translations ensure your business name makes sense in international markets. Both literal translation and creative translation can be used for translating brand names and slogans, and both are offered as professional services. But what actually are literal and creative brand translations? And what is the best option for your company?
Choosing the type of translation that works best for your company is essential in ensuring your brand conveys its desired message to your target audience. This article looks at these two types of translations, their applications for translating brand names, and the best option for your business.
Creative Translation vs. Literal Translation
Literal translation is a straightforward and direct way of performing brand translations. It takes your brand name and slogan and translates them into another language word for word. It is the simplest form of translation, and it’s often integrated into machine translation.
Some benefits come with using literal translations, which include:
- Speeding up project turnaround as computers can perform these translations
- Making the content easy to understand when translated into other languages
- Ensuring no important pieces of information are excluded from the translation
Literal translations are good for some documents, such as step-by-step instructions and other impersonal content. It effectively gets the message across in different languages quickly and easily. However, it is not the best option for translating brand names and slogans. When applied to these types of content, it can lead to embarrassing errors.
On the other hand, creative translation – or transcreation – is a more human translation. It doesn’t just ensure that the phrase makes linguistic and grammatical sense; it also ensures that it works well in the context of communication and the culture of your new audience. Transcreation thus comes with its separate share of advantages, including:
- Considering the context of the message and making it more effective
- Properly translating idioms, sayings, and slang to avoid any embarrassing mistakes
- Taking the target audience into account and making the content culturally relevant.
In brand translations, this creative and culturally-aware translation process is highly beneficial. But while creative translation has advantages, only professional translators with great knowledge of the target audience’s culture can perform well. Therefore, it cannot be done by machines. It is also more expensive and time-consuming than a literal translation.
What is the Best Method for Brand Translations?
So, what is the best method for brand translations: creative or literal translation? When you compare the two, the choice is clear—creative translation is far superior. It is a more human translation that puts the brand name in context. It ensures that it will be understood across cultures and helps form positive brand associations with your new audience. Literal translation doesn’t have the same impact.
Another option for your brand name is to use phonetic translation. Phonetic translation or transliteration essentially keeps your brand name the same. However, the letters and symbols used to write your brand name are changed into the writing system spoken in your chosen market. The sounds and syllables are identical to the original, but the script changes.
Phonetic translations can be effective, but you must ensure your brand name doesn’t mean something else in your target language. The brand could be in trouble if the name has a negative connotation. And if the brand tries to correct the mistake, it will be a long and costly procedure. Therefore, creative brand translations are often thought of as the superior method to use.
Examples of Brand Translation Errors
Many companies have made brand translation errors. Coca-Cola is a prominent example – the company used a literal translation for its brand translations. Unfortunately, their translated name meant something like “bite the wax tadpole” in Chinese. The company has since integrated a creative translation approach, and the name now reads “tasty fun” in Chinese. Much better!
The Bing search engine learned from the mistakes of the brands that preceded them. When the Microsoft company used literal translation, they found that some of their characters had negative associations translating the name to “illness” and “disease”. But with creative translation, it worked well across a variety of international markets.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Brand Name
With embarrassing repercussions, brand translations are crucial to get it right! You can make things easier by carefully selecting your brand name to make it more easily translatable. Here are some factors to consider when developing a brand name that works well in global markets:
- Pronunciation & Spelling: A brand name that is simple to spell and pronounce will be easy for people of all dialects to recognise.
- No Negative Connotations: It is a good idea to run it through various machine translation applications. This helps to ensure it does not have negative connotations in the language spoken by the markets you want to enter.
- Trademark and Legislation: Check the brand name availability to ensure you don’t come across any trademark or legal issues. Using a brand name that already exists internationally could lead to considerable costs and hassles when expanding globally.
If you have already named your company or have a well-established business, don’t worry. Professional creative translation services can help adapt the name to suit whatever target market is in your vision. But steer clear of literal translation tools, or you risk making embarrassing translation mistakes.
Renaissance Translations’ Brand Translations
Getting your brand name right the first time is so important, so it’s advisable to take it to a professional translation services provider before making it public. If you already have a brand name, creative translation can help also you adapt it to suit new markets.
If you need brand translations, we can help. Renaissance Translations offers professional brand translations in any language. We provide literal translation where appropriate but generally perform transcreation or transliteration. Our services also cover a range of other industries, such as marketing, engineering, medical, financial, and many others, providing support elsewhere as your business expands.
Get in touch today for professional translation services you can rely on. We are members of the Association of Translation Comapnies in England and SDL LSP Partner programme. Brand translation is so important! Don’t trust it to just anyone—trust us.