In German, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe has a self-deprecating brand voice. My job was to make that personality shine in English. I noticed the British company Yorkshire Tea had a remarkably similar voice. Using videos helped me spot similarities between the two brands.
Conveying the idea, meaning and tone of a text is crucial to translation. People often think a word-for-word copy will do the job, but if you approach translation like this, you can lose the feeling and essence of a text.
When I’m working on a translation that needs a little more creativity, I usually do a very simple draft translation so that I understand exactly what the text says. Then I consult the brand’s style guide and any English translations they already have, if they’re available.
This gives me an idea of what the brand has done before in terms of their translation choices. How they’ve translated this or that phrase, the tone of voice they’ve chosen for their brand in English, etc.
I also do my own additional research, using existing British brands to help inspire me. I look for brands in the UK that have a similar approach to their marketing, or that use a similar tone of voice, or that speak to their customers in a similar way.
Last year, I had a play around with bringing the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) to life in English. If you’re not familiar with their ads, check out the video below (German).
The BVG has added a humorous touch to the topic of fines. The quirky background music brings a feeling of playful sarcasm to the ad. The conductor’s physical movements are a jokey nod towards flight safety demonstrations (which are never the highlight of a flight). And even though there’s no dialogue, you get the humour.
While watching the BVG’s ads, I noticed that they have a similar approach to Yorkshire Tea, a British tea brand, who created the following ad in regard to the pandemic:
The Social Distancing Teapot definitely seems a bit out there, but when you think about it, haven’t you done something equally ridiculous over the past two years? I know I have!
The “take the piss” humour that’s widespread across the UK is articulated perfectly by the crazy teapot and reactions to it in the video. I don't know how the actors kept a straight face! And again, their body language and physical movements communicate so much of the ad's humour.
From watching these two videos, you can see that the two brands are similar in that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re witty, amusing and relatable. They’ve managed to add a humorous touch to a rather difficult topic.
I’ve found a multimedia approach brings an extra element to the translation process.
It helps you demonstrate your point without using too many words or giving too many complicated written explanations. Using videos to show the similarities between the BVG and Yorkshire Tea envelops you in the brands, you feel them and understand them on a different level.
If you're thinking about launching your brand in the British market, I'd recommend benchmarking your tone of voice and language choice against a comparable brand(s) in the UK. This is a great way to help your brand stand out for all the right reasons.
If you need any help with this, get in touch!
Hi, I'm Cathy, language nerd, lake-swimmer, long-time rower 🚣
I’m here to help you communicate in English with authenticity and accuracy.