Professional translators do a wonderful job at changing English words into Spanish. But whoever coined the phrase “lost in translation” was up to something.
Translation is a language-centric process: take the English meaning of the words and rebuild the phrases with Spanish words that mean the same. The translation process doesn’t take into consideration audience or the objectives of the content.
On the other hand Marketing localization, a.k.a. “transcreation”, takes a step back from the English text and look at the concept in terms of connotation, target audience and intended goals.
It implies translating, rewriting, involving subject-matter experts and sometimes creating original text to assure the message survives well enough to have an equivalent impact in another language.
Marketing localization takes into consideration cultural and language subtleties that are not apparent. One of the best known examples was an attempt during the 70s by Dallas-based airline Braniff.
The airline wanted to promote that their airplanes had leather seats only (in both first class and economy), so they decided to translate their English headline, “Fly in leather,” into Spanish.
The result, “Vuele en cuero,” used words with the same meaning. However, to be “en cueros,” or in leather, means to be nude in most Latin American countries.
There’s no data showing whether the “Fly naked” ad resulted on incremental business for Braniff. They went out of business in 1982. Before its time, perhaps?
A good multicultural communications firm will never translate, always transcreate taking into consideration the “marketing” aspect of your content.