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Tagline Translations: Some tips

Tagline TranslationsA tagline is a concise phrase or text that encapsulates a brand or business’s message for its audience. Typically, taglines are short, memorable, and effectively communicate the brand’s mission and values while fostering connections with the target audience.

In various local markets, translating taglines is crucial, not only to accurately convey the original message but also to consider local culture and conventions. This makes tagline translation, arguably, more important and challenging than creating the tagline itself. As a localization project manager who has handled tagline translation projects for some of the world’s leading brands, I can offer some valuable tips.


Translation Over Translation: Tagline Transcreation Unleashed

In conventional translation projects, fidelity to the source text is paramount. However, in tagline translations, this strict adherence may not be necessary. Taglines, like their English originals, often bend grammatical rules to preserve wordplay and puns. Translators thus enjoy greater flexibility and creativity. To capture the spirit of the original taglines, translators may omit, add, or rearrange words in the target language, aligning with local language conventions and cultures while maintaining the original style. This process may involve various techniques depending on the language.


Harmonizing Voices: The Vital Role of Client-Translation Collaboration

Client brand teams, as the foremost experts on their brand, should collaborate closely with translation teams, offering extensive background information and instructions before translation begins. These briefings should encompass desired message conveyance, style, cultural relevance, brand history, and values. Clear guidelines should also be provided, including brand style guides, campaign context, creative briefs, and language requirements (e.g., style and character limits), enabling the translation team to conduct thorough research and pose queries.


Glocal Wisdom: The Crucial Role of Local Teams in Tagline Translations

Collaborating with translation teams rooted in the local market is critical. These teams possess profound insights into the market, culture, and language conventions. This local knowledge is essential for several reasons:

  1. Local teams are aware of the cultural relevance and understanding of the interests of the target audience. Therefore the linguist can adapt the tagline translations to fit the target audience focus.
  2. Epic failure can happen if the brand creates translated taglines without thorough local research. E.g., Coca-Cola’s brand name, when first marketed in China, was sometimes translated as “Bite the Wax Tadpole.” KFC made Chinese consumers a bit apprehensive when “finger licking good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.”


Tagline Transformation: The Creative Journey from Brief to Selection

Once the translation team is fully briefed on the brand, requirements, expectations, and purpose, they can then proceed with the translation of the taglines. Due to creativity and extra flexibility, they should provide at least 3 translation (transcreation) versions which can represent different techniques used during the process. Of course, along with the translated content, they will need to provide the back translation of the translated taglines and if needed an explanation of why they came up with the translations. The client can then review the versions presented and select their preferred ones or provide feedback/adjustments based on their preferences and the linguist can present additional options.

To sum up, when it comes to translating taglines for diverse markets, challenges are more than mere language conversions; they require a nuanced approach. Due to the nature of taglines, it advocates ‘transcreation’ over strict translation, emphasizing the need for flexibility and creativity to preserve wordplay and cultural relevance. Effective communication between brand teams and translation professionals is important, necessitating comprehensive briefings and clear guidelines. Moreover, collaborating with local experts familiar with both the language and culture is indispensable. Finally, offering multiple translation versions, each representing different techniques, ensures that the essence of the tagline resonates with the target audience while respecting local conventions.

I hope you find this blog useful for your upcoming tagline translation plans. Please feel free to reach out for more information and assistance.