I recently came across a very interesting article in 4P’s (Vol . v Issue 9 ) titled ‘What translated into bigger profits?’ The article highlighted the importance of transcreation.  Transcreation means adapting marketing communication to local cultures, tradition, language and practices.  Every country is unique as regards to tradition & cultures. Consequently, one size fits all phenomena does not work across all borders. To succeed one has to adapt. Trancreation essentially talks about this adaptability.

Marketers have to practice extreme discretion especially when stretches are being considered to take product and services global or beyond local markets.  An ad-campaigns great success in one country does not ensure its success in all markets. Since each market is different. Hence, it makes sense to be ‘culturally sensitive’.  For a mere innocuous emulation might result in a serious Faux Pas. The consequences are dire from failure of perceptibly great ad campaign to seriousness of a brand taking a hit. Following are some social blunders committed by marquee brands:-

1. American Airlines spent huge sums of money reupholstering seats in their entire fleet. Naturally they spent vast sums of money on ad campaigns promulgating their USP. They ran ad campaigns in leading news papers and magazines saying ‘Now fly in leather’.   Bolstered by overwhelming response, airline decided to duplicate campaigns success in Spanish market. However, much to airline’s disappointment, campaign did not go well with Spaniards and it failed miserably. Ensuing investigations revealed that Spanish translation had changed their snappy headline from ‘Fly in leather’ to ‘Fly naked’.

2. Parker Pens landed in trouble when the ads which originally were to convey ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you’ ended up saying ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant’.

3. Dairy Milk Association’s hugely popular campaign ‘Got Milk’ popularized the benefits of milk in US. Company decided to emulate success in Mexico and ended up translating ‘Got Milk’ as ‘Are you lactating’?

4. Coors beer claimed ‘Turn it loose’ with their tagline. The Spaniards were not pleased when they saw a beer that helped you ‘Get loose Bowels’.

5. A drink in China promised to ‘Bring your ancestors back from the dead’. This did not go well with Chinese (hugely populated) as they dint want to bring their ancestors back.

6. Volkswagen realized that ‘Jetta’ in Italian was pronounced as ‘letta’ which means ‘misfortune’.

7. A Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer tried to sell vaccum cleaners in US with tagline’ Nothing sucks like Electrolux’.

Coca Cola’s hugely popular campaign Thanda Matlab- Coca Cola must have been a work of a transcreator. The campaign connected well with Indian audiences who might not have liked dowdy American tagline which read Coca Cola ‘The real Thing’.

Transcreation & India – Transcreation particularly make sense in a country with diverse cultures and traditions as India. India still largely remains an intolerant society. We Indians take offence for anything and everything that supposedly hurts our fragile self esteem. Numerous PIL’s for artistic freedom of expression lying pending in our courts stands as a testimony to this fact. In a nutshell, moderation in emotional response is hard to find in India. A recent incident in Select city walk, Delhi , instigated a huge hue and cry. An international Ice Cream brand had put up a sign board which read ‘Preview Only for International Travellers.’ This is obviously a sensitive issue for Indians and a direct reminder of the Raj period when Indians and dogs weren’t allowed into clubs and other ‘white’ places. Hence, marketers has to tread with caution and no wonder then that first thing marketers have to check is how their marketing communication, brand name , campaigns et all will work in Indian context. 

US research agency CSA (Common Sense Advisory) says Transcreation will be the highest demanded service for reaching new markets and has huge growth potential.

Transcreation is a new buzz word that prevents brands from becoming a laughing stock and instead enables them to laugh all the way to their banks!

Contributed by Varun Arora (Batch 2008-10, IBS Hyderabad)

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