Even though it may not seem that way, translations of marketing and advertising materials are a real challenge for translators. In addition to their translation skills, they need to be creative and capable of conveying the right advertising message to target consumer groups. Treating those types of translation the same way as, for example technical texts, means a potential failure in communicating with the target audience.

Advertising messages cannot be translated literally

Even though accuracy is one of the main translation principles, style is a very important factor with marketing translations because the message needs to be adapted to the cultural and linguistic norms of the target audience. For example, when a manual needs to be translated, it is important to accurately translate the text so the purchased device would be used properly, but that type of translation does not need to be stylistically coloured or appealing in order to attract customers. On the other hand, with marketing and advertising materials, it all usually comes down to effective communication with potential customers, aiming to present the product which will later be sold, in the best way possible. Let’s take a look at a hotel brochure to see how important style actually is for marketing. A poorly written brochure leaves an impression of unprofessionalism due to a dull text, and the customers cannot see the real value of services behind awkward brochure sentences. Moreover, an interesting message can sometimes be the key to attracting customers, especially when there are no other qualities that distinguish a product from its competitors.

This is when style becomes increasingly important, so if translators fail to convey the right idea, what is left is an “empty” message.

“Ideal” message substance + style = ideal message Substance highlights the distinctive value of a product or services. The text itself is written using appealing style.
“Better anything than nothing” message Ideal message – substance = style Lack of relevant information about a product or services. Interesting message and the writing style.
“Empty” message style only – style = nothing No clear message is communicated to potential customers.



A slogan is a central moto or phrase, which is often repeated so it would be memorized or recognized by the idea it carries. Translations of slogans are a real challenge for translators because literal translation into another language can sound funny or illogical.

Perhaps some of the funniest and the most bizarre translations of advertising messages have been made into the Chinese language.

For example, a world renowned manufacturer of soft drinks “Pepsi” achieved great success on the American market with the slogan “We bring you back to life”, however, Chinese translators translated this slogan as “We bring your ancestors back from the grave”- which was the object of great public ridicule. 

Also, a famous restaurant chain KFC opened their first restaurant in Beijing in the 1970s. Their slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated as “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off”?! 

For above mentioned reasons and silly examples, we can say that not many translators can successfully translate a text for marketing and advertising purposes. They need to be experienced, well knowledgeable about the service or product being offered, and possess a dose of creativity as well.