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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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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.

Did You Know?

The Bulgari connection 2Italian jewelry and perfume 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.

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