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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:

  • eyeshadows 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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What Beauty Brand Names Actually Mean

 

Make a game of it: try to guess what these beauty brand names actually mean.  Not easy!

 

Benefit

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This international favorite started out as a small family venture, when American sisters Jean and Jane Ford created a modest beauty boutique in Indiana in 1976. The boutique, called The Face Place continued to get increasingly popular, attracting worldwide attention. It wasn’t until 1990, when the beauty brand was expanding globally that the sisters decided to come up with a new name. Dreamed up on a flight home from Italy, Jane wanted to incorporate the word ‘Bene’ (Italian for good) into the brand’s new title, and so Benefit was born.

Ciaté

Stands for Colour, Innovation, Aspiration, Trend, and Extraordinary. The acronym is a much better fit on a any label!

Clé De Peau Beauté

A brand that originated in Japan in 1982, Clé de Peau Beauté translates as “the key to beautiful skin.”

GHD

This leading haircare brand has probably the most fun name of all: Good Hair Day.

MAC

First established in a Toronto salon, MAC started off as a make-up-artist-only brand and wasn’t launched to the public until 1984, once it had won over models, editors and photographers alike.  Its meaning is simply Make-Up Artist Cosmetics.

Maybelline

Founded in 1913, Maybelline is named after creator Thomas William’s sister. According to the brand, Maybel used to use petroleum jelly on her lashes and brows. Chemist Williams whipped up some carbon dust to mix with the jelly for a darker shade and increased effect.

Nars

nars

This is the namesake of founder François Nars, who launched his brand in 1995 at Barney’s in New York.

Nivea

Initially set up way back in 1890, Nivea’s name is derived from the Latin ‘nix, nivis’, which means ‘white as snow’ and refers to the company’s first major product, the pure white NIVEA Creme.

Nuxe

NUXE was started in 1989 by French entrepreneur Aliza Jabes and is a combination of the words “Nature and “Luxury”.

NYX

Nyx (pronounced like ‘nicks’) is named after the Greek goddess of night.

Ouai

If you haven’t heard of this brand yet, you will. The hair-care line, developed by celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, hits shelves in 2016 — and its name is a bit of a puzzle. But that’s just the way Atkin likes it. “I wanted you to be at a lunch with your friend, and they mispronounce it and you say, ‘No, it’s Ouai,'” Atkin said at the launch event. (Say it with us now: “WAY.”)

The actual meaning? It comes from the French word “ouais,” which is a casual way of saying “yes,” like “yep” or “yup. Atkin dropped the “s” to make it look Hawaiian, which reflects her island upbringing. Check back with us in January to see images of the new collection.

 L’Oréal

In 1907, L’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller created the first hair dye formula which he called L’Auréale after a fashionable hairstyle at the time called L’Auréole meaning ‘halo’. The spelling was later changed to the name we know it as today.

OPI

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This catchy brand name is actually the acronym of: Odontorium Products Inc. Not easy to pronounce, right? The brand was originally a dental-equipment company.

Ren

Ren means clean in Swedish.

Rimmel

Launched in 1834 by Eugene Rimmel, this brand was originally set up as a perfumery although its owner started creating make-up products about a year later.  His exploits included the creation of one of the most popular and useful inventions ever: the mascara.

SEPHORA

A publicist for the brand explains that “Sephora” is a combination of the name “Zipporah,” the wife of Moses in the Book of Exodus who was renowned for her exceptional beauty, and “sephosis,” the Greek term attributed to beauty and vanity.

SK-II

The meaning behind the Japanese cult brand’s name is top secret… literally. It stands for ‘Secret Key’ which is what the skincare line was originally going to be called as the scientists were on a quest to find the ‘secret key’ to crystal clear skin. In their research, they found the answer by surprise.

Stila

This name is a derivative of the Italian word “stilare,” which means “to pen,” then A+ to you, friend.

The name comes from the brand’s ethos: “The right makeup can turn even the simplest look into a statement as authentic as your signature.” This eyeliner’s the perfect example.

Urban Decay

urbandecay

Here’s a fun experiment. Google “Urban Decay” and check out the image results.

No, you won’t find swatches of Half Baked shadow. Instead, you’ll likely see a collection of post-apocalyptic crumbling buildings. That’s because “Urban Decay” is actually defined as “the decay and deterioration of an urban area due to neglect or age.” A little weird for a makeup brand, no?

UD agrees, crediting this crazy (and now wildly famous) name to its cofounder Sandy Lerner’s former husband. “Everyone was saying it had to be named ‘Urban’ something. Sandy’s husband, who’s totally ‘Mr. Computer Scientist’ — they invented the router and started Cisco Systems together — just said one day, ‘Oh, why don’t you call it Urban Decay?’ and the name just stuck,” says cofounder Wende Zomnir.

Wen

When launching the company, the founder took the word “new,” flipped it backwards, and came up with Wen. Plus, he liked that it sounded like “zen.”

70-0175 342210 WEN HAIR CARE HÅRVÅRD . 90 dagar WEN® Hair Care WEN® Är ett revolutionerande nytt hårvårdsystem som  ersätter shampo, balsam, inpackning och styling – allt i ett! Innehåller en perfekt balans av örter och naturliga ämnen Rengör, återfuktar och tillför näring, styrka och lyster Innehåller inga skadliga kemikalier, utan endast naturliga ämnen! Sparar tid – endast en WEN® Cleansing Conditioner produktersätter shampo, balsam och hårinpackning Med  WEN® får håret glans, lyster och blir lättare att hantera  Löddrar inte, utan innehåller bara skonsamma, vårdande ämnen  12101-FIT02

70-0175 342210 WEN HAIR CARE HÅRVÅRD . 90 dagar WEN® Hair Care WEN® Är ett revolutionerande nytt hårvårdsystem som ersätter shampo, balsam, inpackning och styling – allt i ett! Innehåller en perfekt balans av örter och naturliga ämnen Rengör, återfuktar och tillför näring, styrka och lyster Innehåller inga skadliga kemikalier, utan endast naturliga ämnen! Sparar tid – endast en WEN® Cleansing Conditioner produktersätter shampo, balsam och hårinpackning Med WEN® får håret glans, lyster och blir lättare att hantera Löddrar inte, utan innehåller bara skonsamma, vårdande ämnen 12101-FIT02

 

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!

Study Finds Personal Care Products Industry Major Contributor to U.S. Economy

The cosmetics and personal care products industry makes significant economic and social contributions that go beyond the immediate benefits of its products.

  • The personal care products industry strengthens the U.S. economy.
  • Industry contributes to a strong export economy.
  • Industry helps small business owners thrive.
  • Women, including women with diverse backgrounds, are at the heart of the industry.
  • Significant research and development investment drives innovation.

For more information or to view the entire study, please visit: http://www.personalcarecouncil.org/about-us/economic-impact-study.

Beautyterm Interview by PRIMERTBR

Do you want to know more about Beautyterm? Why and how the company came into existence? Why is translation and localization important to building brand awareness? How does globalization, research and development, and advertising impact the role of the translator?

Click on this link and read the PRIMERTBR interview with Beautyterm founder Agnes Meilhac to get your answers!

Primer is an industry publication addressing and analyzing public policy and business topics defining the future of the beauty industry.

PRIMERTBR Interview with Beautyterm April 2015

PRIMERTBR Interview with Beautyterm April 2015