Louis Vuitton’s Christmas Campaign Translates Their Signature Bon Ton into Your Bien-Être

12th Jan 2021
Entre les lignes

The herculean efforts that go on behind the scenes of major fashion houses to make them the international design titans they are, would intimidate even the bravest among us. It takes so much more than crafting killer designs that make us swoon with desire or finding the perfect model to make wearing it look like a cakewalk.

No. Hours painstakingly spent behind the drawing board, screen, or sewing machine, a million iterations on a single seam or pleat, and gallons of midnight oil burnt discussing how to tweak the next campaign to make the next design the talk of the town – that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a fashion empire.

But did you know that there’s a striking parallel between the world of fashion design and the world of (written) content creation? Creative translations require a heavy dose of wizardry, empathetic genius, and naturally, a flair for the written word – especially where marketing is concerned. And then there’s the research and countless revisions to consider. Few are aware of the skill and finesse involved.

To illustrate, creative translations require you to do the following, at minimum:

  1. Flawlessly navigate the waters of cultural difference

  2. Get your message to resonate the right way, with the right people

  3. Do the above without sacrificing your brand’s image

Last week, we shared a few of our favorite 2020 global PR campaigns. One of the things we hope you took home is that to infiltrate the international scene and dazzle your audience, replicating a snappy slogan from one language to another won’t do the trick.  

What was the golden key? To unlock the world’s interest and ardor (and with any luck a pocketbook or too), you need a solid universal theme and a message that speaks on an emotional frequency.

And that brings us to Louis Vuitton’s 2020 Christmas campaign, “The Journey Home for the Holidays”, an elegant PR campaign that tugs at the heart and impresses with its linguistic artistry. It’s a perfect case-in-point for playing on a common theme to create brand affinity. Even better – despite coming from a luxury brand, this campaign is also as accessible as they come.

So, what themes did LV play on to transform their signature bon ton into feel-good for everyone? How does language matter? Let’s find out what diamonds in the rough we can unearth, shall we?

At Entre les lignes, we handled the translation and multilingual aspects of global PR and marketing campaigns. Need to expand internationally? Get in touch with us today.

It’s the frequency of the feels

One of the cleverest aspects of Louis Vuitton’s creative translation approach to its 2020 Christmas campaign is how the campaign name itself isn’t the same between languages. And yet, it still manages to resonate at a near-identical emotional frequency. 

The campaign slogan in every language puts home at the heart of the message (except the French, but we’ll get to that…) and focuses to varying degrees on the concept of holidays and the journey itself.

Journey? Did someone say journey? While we’d love to hop on a plane, let's take a look at how LV used that idea instead.

Several of the campaign’s languages use it. The Italian (viaggio), German (Die Reise), Russian (ПУТЕШЕСТВИЕ), and English – of course – all evoke the notion of traveling the distance to get back home. The Spanish amplifies the emotional pull of that voyage with vuelta, or return. When you go home for the holidays, you’re going back, to your roots and the place where you belong.

If that reminds you of last week’s look at Ikea’s 2020 PR campaigns, where home is life’s constant – you’re not alone.

Interestingly, LV went all Humpty Dumpty and left journey out of the equation in the French and Japanese titles. And that’s why a good creative translation agency has got to stay on its toes at all times. For Japanese, the idea of journey is implied, but verbs for travel, journey, or go, aren’t used at all. It’s all in the (e) tacked after house (家) that gets the concept across.

And French? Well, should we expect anything less of this esteemed tongue and long-time lingua franca than an off-beat, yet elite interpretation of the Louis Vuitton campaign? They dropped the word “home” and “journey” altogether in the title, in favor of Rendez-vous pour les fêtes.

Why? Well, whoever was doing the translating understood that this was the quintessential French word to coalesce feelings of togetherness, warmth, and excitement for the season’s celebrations. Rendezvous perfectly encompasses the journey and home ideas in a single word.

Pretty neat, right?

Home is where the heart is

Louis Vuitton wouldn’t be the exclusive luxury brand it is without seamlessly blending how we think about home with a gentle nudge to remind us that an LV gift is the perfect thing to bring back to it. 🎁 Visually, the campaign gives us two key takeaways about home:

  1. Even if you have to travel through half a dozen of them first, every door leads back home.

  2. And perhaps cliché, but home is where the people we love are.

The “Journey Home for the Holidays'' trailer doesn’t require words to get its message across. It relies on bright, crisp colors, perfectly infused with warmth to convey holiday feelings of joy and expectation. There’s a hint of excitement with a child peering around the door at a dim room full of unpacked boxes, Friend of the House Alicia Vikande’s look of eager anticipation at the sound of a doorbell, and the glowing smiles of all kinds of people happy to be home for the holidays.

And throughout, Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Mandolins in G Major, elicits a delicious feeling of joyous anticipation at being reunited with loved ones.

However, the palette needed to paint home in different languages is a complex one. Home in English doesn’t just refer to four walls and a roof; it evokes feelings of permanence, belonging, and hopefully – a little hygge too. And that’s why the Japanese translation doesn’t just refer to 家 (ie-house), but refers to 心安らぐ場所, literally a place where you feel at peace.

And while the Spanish uses “casa”, or house, it also conjures up hogares when talking about reuniting with friends and family. It’s a word that really drives the coziness, well… home. And for the German, to be honest, we wondered if the translator had really gotten it right with Zuhause… We thought it lacked the snug factor that Daheim has, but… It turns out Louis Vuitton knew better (perish the thought!).

The difference between the two has become a regional one, with Daheim used more in the South and Zuhause used more in the North. At the end of the day though, Zuhause and the feelings that go with it are the most universally understood. The sitch?

Easy…never underestimate the on-trend sense of Louis Vuitton’s creative translation team.

The holidays are for everyone & hopefully, so is Louis Vuitton …

Some fashion houses give you that unattainable vibe, exuding a permanently out-of-reach, upper crust, elite sensation. That can be a downer, right? Turn that frown upside-down though, because Louis Vuitton makes everyone feel like their bon ton is the world’s bien-être.

From their signature luxury handbags to fashionable kicks to a simple keychain, the large gift boxes and itsy-bitsy presents make LV merchandise feel within reach. Even if you can’t afford it right this second, there could be something neatly wrapped and tucked under the tree for you in the near future. And that feeling of elite, but still attainable and relatable…it’s impossible to miss.

They have a nuanced grasp of what works and what doesn’t across cultures, for example:

  • No “holidays” in Russian, please. New Year’s (НОВОГОДНЕЕ) is the time for gift-giving and family.

  • The Italian took “Whether in person or in spirit” and went with “che sia di persona o a distenza”, why? “O inspirito” feels a little too much like a trip to Roman Catholic mass (et Spiritus Sancti anyone?).

And while naturally, everyone is dressed to the nines in their best Louis Vuitton for the campaign, you won’t see the standard array of white faces. There’s young wonder and sage delight, people of color (Say hello to Omari Phipps and Mao Xiaoxing!), families, singles, and couples. What counts is that home and holidays mean a flood of joy, togetherness, and of course – impeccable taste!

At the end of the day, Louis Vuitton makes us all want what they are selling because they make us feel sparkly, excited, and hopeful. And if we get it right, maybe we’ll find a monogrammed scarf or tailored shirt just for us, this holiday season.

Transcreation FTW

With a little luck, this case study has kindled your interest and raised your expectations when it comes to your own brand translations. You can easily see from Louis Vuitton’s “Journey Home” that there's a whole lot more that goes into creative multilingual translations than just words.

For translations that sweep your clients off their feet, you need an agency that:

  • understands culture

  • intuitively feels your brand’s message

  • can turn a phrase so adroitly in their native language that the audience goes into raptures

Want your website to translate with the same pizzazz as Louis? As a creative translation agency, that’s kind of our thing. Get in touch with us today!