Marketing translations is a vital step across all industries. Due to the cultural differences that affect global markets, you need to take special care when presenting your branding messages. Unlike technical documents, marketing communications material is highly visible and often written in highly expressive language. If you want to reach a global audience, it is essential to make sure your marketing messages resonate cross-culturally. Transcreation makes this possible.

Logos, slogans or tag-lines, and promotional materials need to be tailored. Often, a slogan that works well in one culture translates into something with a completely different meaning, and one that is not intended.

For life sciences, this presents some unique challenges. Health and personal care products often take different approaches than other industries. Given the personal nature in itself, the attitudes cross-culturally can be vastly different. What may convey a message of excitement with one audience, may be embarrassing for another.

Mistaken Messaging Blunders

There are a lot examples to see just how integral tailoring to the message to the client can be. Take a look at some of these from A Short Course in International Marketing Blunders by Michael White:

Coors Beer
Popular in the US, it’s successful slogan “Turn It Loose!” did not quite translate over to Spanish speakers. Unfortunately, it translated into potential buyers believing they would experience diarrhea. The literal Spanish translation suggests that anyone drinking Coors would “suffer from diarrhea” which certainly didn’t help their brand and messaging.

Pepsodent Toothpaste
When Colgate-Palmolive tried to market Pepsodent toothpaste in South-East Asia and its tooth whitening properties, they failed to accurately assess the market. In the region, dark teeth were a sign of prestige. In actuality, locals chew betel nuts to stain their teeth. The slogan, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went”, was not only undesirable but also seen as racist by some.

Another toothpaste blunder, Colgate ran into problems launching a product in France. The toothpaste, named “Cue”, unintentionally shared its name with a French pornographic magazine.

Vicks cough drops launched a marketing campaign in Germany without taking pronunciations into account. Unfortunately, the pronunciation was the same as the slang for sexual intercourse.

What You Need to Consider During Transcreation

During the transcreation process, it is important to perform a cultural assessment. Looking at past marketing experiences and cultural preferences in the target market enables you to understand how to convey your brands message.

When working with a language service provider (LSP), it is essential to have in-country subject matter experts. They have the extensive knowledge of the market that is being served. Beyond translations, they should have specific expertise in copywriting, marketing, design, and branding.

Work closely with your LSP to create or utilize existing style guides to protect the creative nature of your marketing message. Determine which branding elements such as terminology, graphics, and messages will resonate best.

Utilize back translation to ensure brand accuracy. This enables you to ensure the look and feel is consistent throughout the process.


Creativity is what really sets apart transcreation from translation. When developing marketing material for your product, a lot of care is taken to convey concepts, tones, and meanings to your audience. Together in marketing, these work to facilitate a reaction from the end-user. However, when it comes to marketing globally, you don’t want your advertising pieces to say the same thing in a different language. The real goal is to create the same feeling or reaction, maintaining the nuances of the source material.

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