Tag Archives: cosmetic translation

Translating the concept of empowerment in beauty

Empowerment marketing took the world of advertising by storm when, instead of simply pointing out inadequacy to create a need for a product, it showed that we can sell that same product in ways that make us better people and the world a better place.

Most areas of business quickly joined the growing movement and beauty is no exception.  Empowerment-related vocabulary has seeped into the brand communications of many cosmetic companies, at least in English.

Just in the last few months, we’ve had to translate copy for products such as:

  • eye shadows with “empowering shades”, created by makeup artists inspired by a “new generation of empowered women”;
  • hair dryers “packed with hair-empowering design duality”;
  • skincare touting its radical new approach to help “empower the skin”;
  • lip color that promises its wearer to “reveal who she truly is – an empowered girlfriend living a life full of happiness, love & success on her own terms”;
  • and brow enhancers that “empower her to become the woman she was meant to be” …

These are just a few examples of how decisively “empowerment” has become part of the beauty landscape.

Culturally, most languages have yet to adopt a single term for so many different contexts, a single term serving as a beacon of hope, a call to action to take control and surpass one’s own expectations – a push button of sorts that can be used to elicit a sense of feel-good transcendence.

In French, for example, there truly is no easy way to translate the above messages with a single term that would carry the same weight as “empowerment” in English.  Mademoizelle online may be promoting the use of “empouvoirement” but, for now, the term does not have the same rooted presence in the French language.  It is also nearly impossible to apply without raising eyebrows…

What translators are forced to do is resort to paraphrasing, which in and of itself is exactly what they must do.  The one thing they should not do, however, is ignore the importance that this term and this concept hold for American brands.

It can be argued that translating / transcreating beauty copy also requires an equal measure of localization to the target audience, which may or may not harbor the same level of concern for underscoring the possibility for human growth, for a woman’s right to live her life to the fullest and to feel strong and independent.

But as a translator you cannot skip over, blithely ignore or wish this part of the message away – especially when it reflects brand values and identity.  We must remember that exposure to foreign values and new ideas can be enriching and mind-opening even when buying hair gel (and why not?)!

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#beauty20 Awards

We are pleased to share with everyone that one of our clients was named BEST BEAUTY STARTUP online 2018 by #beauty20 Awards.  Congratulations COTARDE!

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The #beauty 2.0 Awards was initiated in 2013 in Paris, followed by events in 2014 & 2015 in New York, London and Los Angeles. The awards are brought to you by INNOCOS events and praising the most ground-breaking innovation in digital marketing by beauty brands.

Mark your calendars for the next INNOCOS event: June 14-15, 2018, INNOCOS World, Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, Florence, Italy!

Human vs Google Translation

A word of caution against Google Translate!

Technology is a beautiful thing and in business it has become a game-changer: countless apps, widgets, programs and systems are now available to business people to make their work easier and more efficient.

Non-translators tend to spontaneously think of Google Translate when relating technology to translation.

Google Translate’s automatic translations may seem useful because they give internet users a general understanding of something written in a foreign language (e.g. when casually scanning the internet for information).

However, Google Translate should never be relied upon to generate meaningful and printable content.  Not even to make what seems like minor changes to a previously translated text.

To illustrate just how badly it can fail us, we’ve used an example of a text readily available from the French language website of the fashion and cosmetics powerhouse Chanel:

french-language-clippingand its English language version translated by a human:

english-language-clipping

We submitted the original French copy of this text to Google Translate and compared the results to the human translation.

google-translate-clipping

It is quite noteworthy to point out that although the text was very short (50 to 75 words), Google Translate produced three completely nonsensical sentences:

  •  “His escalation of tensions” instead of “Facial tension slips away”;
  •  “Her muslin cotton soaked in warm water gently exfoliates and perfect cleaning” for what should have said “Moistened with warm water, its cotton cloth gently exfoliates and removes all traces of makeup”;
  •  The header “Benefits” was translated by “Earnings”.

Of course, the problems do not end there.  We also have:

  •  a sentence missing a verb,
  •  a whole slew of rather awkwardly strung words,
  •  not to mention the fact that the product name (“Essential Comfort Cleanser”) was translated in two different ways (“Supreme Comfort Cleansing” and “Supreme Cleansing Comfort”).

So please, heed our warning: avoid the temptation of turning to Google Translate for any type of translation, no matter how insignificant. If changes are made to a document we have previously translated, we will be happy to go over them and make the necessary adjustments.

The case of a geo-specific beauty brand name: necessary or not?

The skincare brand Olay originated in South Africa in the early 1950s.  Invented by an ex-Unilever employee, the original product went by the name of Oil of Olay, chosen as a spin on its key ingredient “lanolin”.  The thick pink liquid was marketed as an anti-aging ‘beauty fluid’ and in the 1970s the range expanded to include other types of skincare products.

In the 1980s, Oil of Olay was acquired by Proctor & Gamble and in 2000 the group decided to take it global.  So the name was modified in each country to sound “pleasing to consumers”: Oil of Ulay (UK and Ireland), Oil of Ulan (Australia) and Oil of Olaz (France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany).

olay-around-the-world

P&G eventually streamlined the brand under a global name, removed the possibly misunderstood word “oil” and eliminated many of the name variations. According to P&G, “the original name no longer fit with what women have come to expect from Olay — a light, greaseless formula.

Today, there’s just “Olaz” (in German-speaking countries) and “Olay” (everywhere else).

Drop us a note, if you’d like to share other similar stories of geo-specific brand names in the field of beauty! We’d love to hear from you!

Translation Quotes Explained: Anthony Burgess

 

 

Anthony Burgess, the prolific British novelist, composer, librettist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, translator and critic, who is best remembered for his novel “A Clockwork Orange,” once said:

 

“Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.”

What we take away from this is that translation goes far beyond the transfer of meaning (never mind the simplistic idea of “switching” words between languages).  In its broadest form, it involves bridging two cultures; in marketing more specifically, it is about making the corporate culture of a business comprehensible to another, culturally-distinct audience that is different from the brand’s intended, original target.

MEET OUR CLIENT: Skyn ICELAND

SOLUTIONS FOR STRESSED SKIN

It will be hard to find another client with a mantra more in tune with our beliefs.  Skyn Iceland’s genesis and purpose are so much like our own that we feel a particular kinship with their entire concept.  And we believe that nowadays every woman out there is likely to appreciate the brand’s healing philosophy behind its products.

ICELANDSkyn ICELAND was born from a life-changing mission to treat and alleviate the effects of stress on skin while promoting a stress-free life full of balance, health and wellness.  The company’s founder, Sarah Kugelman, transformed her own experience of stress, which left her hospitalized, with a weakened immune system, into a personal journey to find harmony between inner and outer beauty.  That journey took her quite literally to Iceland, a pure, pristine place of great beauty and peace, whose people impressed her with their incredible longevity and vibrant, healthy skin.

Having chosen a career in a fast-paced environment where deadlines are forever looming over our heads, we too have each had our share of work-related stress.  And illness.  That’s why we also recognize and can personally attest to the tremendous impact of stress on internal health.  Our goals are therefore very much in alignment with Skyn Iceland’s.

We work daily to maintain a pleasant, stress-free and wholesome working environment that promotes respectful relationships with our clients, collaborating linguists and writers alike.  We value kindness and consideration, politeness and good manners.  We stand for fairness, honesty and integrity. And we love having healthy-looking skin!

SKYN ICELAND

Take the Skyn ICELAND job stress test!

I scored: 37.  A great accomplishment but, believe it or not, a few years back this score would have been through the roof!

“How do you do it? Surely you live in some pastoral setting with no phone, no computer and minimal obligations. Or is it possible you’ve simply trained yourself to let things go and focus on what’s important in life? We bet you eat well and drink lots of water, exercise regularly, get enough rest, and make time for friends and family, right? Bravo! Now just round out your amazing lifestyle with Glacial Face Wash and the ANTIDOTE Quenching Daily Lotion and you will be our hero!”

Did You Know?

Italian jewelry and The Bulgari connection 2perfume maker Bulgari was one of the first companies to sponsor a fictomercial, the 2001 novel by British writer Fey Weldon entitled “The Bulgari Connection”.

A portmanteau word combining fiction and commercial, a fictomercial is a book, tv show or any other piece of creative writing in which a company pays the writer to incorporate its products into the story. It is part of a trend to use non-traditional ways to promote products and has become a burgeoning business for writers over the last fifteen years.

Why? Because advertisers are always looking to make people see things in different ways. They like to take existing concept in new directions, making up new words along the way (like fictomercial, advertorial, jeggings or masstige).

As a side note, fictomercials are referred to as “publifiction” in French.