Tips for Slogan Translation
Deceptively simple to the eye
A good slogan actually employs a complex combination of language, imagery and culture to communicate a memorable message in an abbreviated form. A slogan is a short group of words layered with nuanced meanings that are not always easily translated into another language. The challenge for the translators is to grasp that tiny, powerful package of words and convey that message in the target language within a different cultural framework.
Brainstorm ideas with colleagues and your cloient, and play with words and expressions in the target language. Then start creating expressions and phrases in the target language that convey the core message and are effective at achieving the slogan’s purpose. Make a list your best ideas and go to the next step.
It is easy to overlook hidden or double meanings in phrases and this is why it is a good idea to get feedback from others. They might see something you miss. Start with your client’s feedback. So send your list of possibilities to translators and other speakers of the language and ask them to rank them and explain their choices. Once you gather and evaluate their suggestions, you can decide what to deliver to your client. If you have two or three translations that are equally strong, send them all to your client.
Remember, translating slogans successfully is a combination of making good linguistic decisions, understanding cultural sensitivities and letting your creative genius flow in a way that you do no lose sight of the ultimate purpose of the slogan.
Some multinational companies sidestep the slogan translation process by creating global slogans for their products in a single language–such as Nike’s “Just Do It.” But if your client does not have the global clout of a multinational brand, or has a slogan that does not work well in another language, you must look for the most effective translation, not necessarily the most accurate one.
A direct translation is the easiest path for the translator, and it can be effective. This can be done when the translation is equally successful as the original at conveying the core message of the slogan. One example of this is Gatorade’s “Is it in you?” which was translated directly into Spanish as “Está en ti?”. This translation works equally well in both languages.
Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan “It’s finger lickin’ good” shows another approach. Although it could be translated directly into Spanish effectively, KFC Mexico chose instead to go with “buenísimo,”which means “amazingly good”. This is not a direct translation but rather a recreation of the slogan. Obviously KFC’s translation agency and marketing department did their homework and concluded that a retooled slogan localized for the Mexican market would be more effective.
Here are a few tips to take into account when translating slogans.
4 Easy Steps for Translating Slogans:
1) Dissect the slogan’s message and purpose
Slogans are essentially communication shortcuts used to build awareness, create favorable associations and motivate individuals. Make sure you fully grasp the language nuances, associated mental imagery and cultural message that the slogan conveys. Be especially aware of the slogan’s purpose. Is it being used to inspire, motivate, educate?
2) Translator vs. creator – pick a hat, or wear both!
When a slogan can be translated directly you can easily wear your translator’s hat. Prepare a direct translation, with perhaps a few slightly different alternatives, and go to Step 4.
If a direct translation does not work well, however, ask yourself: How much creative license am I allowed? Discuss this with your client and make him or her aware of the challenges of a direct translation and get permission to get your creative juices going in the next step.