Translating Slogans

Should you translate your slogan?

Why do you have a Tagline?

The title refers to slogans, but I prefer the term tagline. We’re talking about the line of text below your logo, on your literature and website.

Before deciding on whether to translate the tagline for new markets, ask yourself why you have the tagline. What purpose does it serve? There are two types of tagline:

The Abstract – this represents and conveys the brand values through a memorable and simple message. Take McDonalds’; I’m lovin’ it. The tagline doesn’t refer to food at all. It promotes and captures the way you feel when you visit McDonalds. It’s about enjoying time with family and friends, any time of day or year. Their adverts are about enjoying the simple things in life. Early morning breakfasts, coffee with friends and spending time with friends over a McDonalds’ meal. That complex series of scenarios and events is summarised in one simple tagline. The idea being, you see the tagline and the brand values of McDonalds come rushing to your mind.

This type of slogan can be translated, and at times it can be left untranslated if it serves the purpose of the brand.

The Descriptive – this tagline describes your service or product. A good example is Dollar Shave Club. Their tagline; Shave Time, Shave Money, describes their service whilst capturing the brand’s fun personality. Save your time and money by buying their razors for $1 per month, delivered to your home.

A descriptive tagline is particularly valuable for company websites where you can display it on every page of the site (in the header). On whichever page the user enters the website, through the tagline they can see what your company is about immediately.

This kind of tagline always requires translation.

When to translate an Abstract Tagline

Don’t Translate – Sometimes a brand can alter their message in an export market by maintaining the original language. San Miguel use; una vida bien vivida, meaning ‘a life well lived’. It also contains a bit of a play on words as ‘vivida’ sounds very similar to ‘bebida’ (drink). The concept of the tagline is similar to McDonalds’; fun times with friends enjoying a San Miguel. However, by maintaining the tagline in Spanish, they alter the brand dimensions. It’s still about living; the adverts reinforce this message and many non-Spanish speakers know what vida means, but they also add an exotic element. Spain is associated with sun and summer holidays. The adverts reinforce this, as well as the passion of the Mediterranean. By maintaining a Spanish tagline they play on their Spanish identity which would be lost to some extent if it had been translated.

Do Translate – McDonalds decided to translate I’m lovin’ it for different markets. If there is no added benefit for your brand in maintaining an English tagline in the export market, translate it. Think back to your reasons for having a tagline and capturing your brand essence in one sentence. If you want the same impact in export markets, you need to do the same in their language.

Getting the Translation Right

Dollar Shave Club has a tagline which describes their service and conveys their brand personality, all in just four words.

It’s a challenge getting the translation right, bringing the descriptive elements and personality into a new language. Big companies can get it wrong. McDonalds made a big mistake with the launch of the Big Mac in France. They translated it literally, Gros Mec, which means ‘Big Pimp’ in French.

How does an SME get it right within a tight budget? Use a professional translator who works into their native language. Find a translator or translation company that specialises in marketing and advertising, agree on an hourly rate and agree a set amount of time that they’ll work on the slogan.

Image Credit – Coca Cola UK 1 by Michael Rehfeldt used under CC BY 2.0

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