Reading time: 6 mins

Promoting products to potential buyers is an indispensable part of any company’s business strategy – the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. Given the type of product they are selling, pharmaceutical companies often need to abide by more rigid rules and take extra care to advertise responsibly and accurately. Language service providers (LSPs) who localise these materials need to follow the same guidance: they must also reproduce the key characteristics of promotional texts to achieve the desired impact and stay true to the meaning of the original.

How pharmaceuticals are marketed

The first and most crucial element to consider is the target audience. Pharmaceuticals (and medical products in general) are either intended directly for patients for over-the-counter use to relieve minor ailments or indirectly through prescription or administration by healthcare professionals. So marketing materials will also target one or the other group, rarely both at the same time.

While patients will most likely see advertisements for medicines on television, billboards, posters, or pamphlets in waiting rooms at hospitals, healthcare professionals will often receive promotional materials to their workplace in the form of brochures, e-mails, and even visits or demonstrations by sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies.

In a local branch or a wholesale distributing partner of a pharmaceutical company, you will likely receive these materials from the marketing department of the parent company or global headquarters, written in the local language or more likely in English, which is nowadays the most universal source language for translation. This means that you will undoubtedly be faced with the task of translating or localising these promotional materials in your home country. You know first impressions are everything, most of all when selling products to experts in the field. If you provide them with poorly translated marketing materials, they will probably not decide to buy your product. So you need an LSP that will can supply high quality translations.

Challenges in pharmaceutical marketing translations

Translating marketing materials for medical or pharmaceutical products and services presents a variety of unique challenges. Some of the most important ones to consider are:

  1. Adapting to the target audience: as mentioned above, promotional texts are aimed either at patients or healthcare professionals. The language used greatly depends on the focus group. While the language intended for patients will need to be easy to understand and focused on the health benefits, language aimed at healthcare professionals will have to be precise and specialised. Marketing to professionals will likely focus on results of trials (often compared to other similar medicines or products), ease of use or prescription, and positive outcomes for patients. Both the author and translator of the text need to be mindful of the target reader’s health condition. If, for instance, the reader is battling a severe illness or undergoing strenuous treatment, the language used must be friendly, emphatic, and encouraging. A good LSP will be able to identify the intended audience; however, it is nonetheless wise to tell your LSP who the target audience is when placing your order.
  2. Selecting the right translator: depending on the type of text, the LSP will have to carefully consider the right translation team for the task. It is vital that the translator is highly experienced in the specialised field, but this alone may not be enough. A translator who brilliantly translates clinical trials or summaries of product characteristics, may not be the best fit for texts with a marketing twist. The chosen translator must strike the right balance between medical expertise and creativity to localise content and slogans. Therefore, even if your company employs in-house translators who regularly work on medical or highly technical texts, you may still wish to turn to an LSP to find a medical marketing translator to give you the best result with your promotional materials.
  3. Retaining the meaning and impact of the text: this means more than just translating word for word. Slogans are an excellent example: they often contain wordplay (puns, repetitions, rhymes…) and cultural specifics. Very likely, there will not be a direct equivalent in other languages. The translator will thus have to get inventive and in equal parts translate and create a slogan in the target language. This endeavour is aptly named transcreation. Here are few well-known examples of slogan transcreation between English and Slovene:
    L’Oreal: Because you’re worth it. (Ker se cenite. EN literally: Because you value yourself.)
    Garnier: Take care (Misli nase. EN literally: Think about yourself.)
    Snickers: You’re not you when you’re hungry. (Lačen si ful drugačen. EN literally: You are very different when you are hungry. Unlike in English, this rhymes in Slovene.)
    Voltaren: Rediscover the joy of movement. (Povrnite si veselje do gibanja. EN literally: Give yourself back the joy of movement.)The examples above demonstrate that translations of slogans work best if you keep an open mind to the possibility of slightly deviating from the phrasing used in the source text and embracing unconventional approaches. Marketing translation often demands that you work more closely with your translator or LSP, clearly state your expectations and regularly provide constructive feedback.
  1. Keeping in mind the format of the text: as discussed in our article on preparing a translation brief, it is important that you let your LSP know the format of the text. This is especially vital with marketing texts, as they may have spatial constraints (e.g. brochures) or be used in a different medium (e.g. you may send a simple text file but will use it to make subtitles or voiceover for a video commercial). Brochures, pamphlets, and similar documents are also frequently rich in graphics and created using specialised software, such as Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. If at all possible, provide the text in an editable format (MS Word, PowerPoint, IDML etc.) and attach the final graphical format of the original text for reference (e.g. original video, PDF of a brochure etc.). If you do not have an editable version available, tell your LSP if you need just the translation in a simplified format or a full design service including preparing your materials for print.

At Alamma we regularly translate promotional texts from our clients from the fields of human and veterinary medicine and pharmaceuticals. Our translation teams are experienced and dedicated to providing the best possible translation to showcase your product on the local market. We have translated everything from patient brochures to promotional materials for healthcare professionals and even video advertisements entirely in rhyme.

Are there any other considerations specific to marketing texts that we have not covered in this article? How does your company tackle the translation of slogans or taglines? Let us know in the comments below or by e-mail at We are more than happy to assist you with the translation or transcreation of your materials!