Elevator Pitch Translation – Marketing Translation Class n°1

By Chiara Grassilli
In Marketing Translation
Jul 29th, 2013

Elevator Pitch Translation – How to translate the term Pitch


Elevator Pitch Translation - Marketing Translation Class n°1When translating marketing material, one of the first difficulties you will face is that English uses dozens of words untranslatable into other languages. I can speak about the difficulties of translating some marketing terms into Italian, but I’m sure that translators of many other languages struggle as well.

The problem is this: English is dominant, English is the language of marketing and business, so English decides what terms the world has to use when talking about marketing and business.

It’s fine, I’m not complaining from a political point of view (we Italians did the same with Latin for centuries, so have no right to complain now) but I have to cope with the linguistic aspect.

One of my favourite untranslatable term is PITCH or PITCHING. What is the best elevator pitch translation?

Pitching is defined as “a fast and effective way of convincing the others that your idea is amazing.” (source)

A pitch can be done face to face, with a call, an email, a Power Point Presentation or a video.

As Mr. David S. Rose explains in his video on TED, a pitch can be a presentation used to raise money for your company, describing it to potential investors and convincing them to give you their money. (Watch the video here: source)

However, it can also be a sales process. Indeed, Wikipedia says that “in selling technique, a sales pitch is a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something, with a planned sales presentation strategy, of a product or service designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service.” (source)

Great. A bit wide as a concept, but clear. Now, how do I translate this into Italian?

I have several options:

  • 1 – presentare, “to present”. As we saw in Mr Rose’s talk, a pitch can be a presentation. It is more than a simple presentation though, because the speaker presents a product or an idea not for the sake of presenting it, but with the aim of obtaining something (usually money)
  • 2 – promuovere, “to promote”, it’s a slightly better translation. But still it’s not 100% accurate, because marketing is also promoting, but it is not pitching.
  • 3 – vendere, “to sell”, it can work in some contexts. It is inaccurate, though, because, while the pitching process aims to sell, it’s not just a sale.
  • 4 – convincere, “to convince”. This is more of a mental act, whereas when I pitch my book to an editor to convince him to publish it I want him to take action, not only to be convinced.
  • 5 – chiudere un affare “close a deal”, might work in certain contexts.
  • 6 – piazzare, “to launch a product, to market”. It sounds more accurate in Italian, although a bit slang and a bit old fashioned. Moreover, it makes me think of the seller who knocks at your door trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner.

A specific type of pitching is the “elevator pitching”, a short speech that takes from 30 seconds to one and a half minutes maximum. Why this name? Because this is the kind of speech you might give to a potential investor who happens to be in the elevator with you, when you only have that short span of time that brings him to the right floor. (source)

So we can say that the process of pitching is similar to a sale, but it’s not only a sale.

It is a presentation, but not the academic kind of presentation.

It involves the promotion of a product or an idea, but it’s not advertisement.

It aims to convince someone, but not with a marketing strategy.

There is no way to translate all these concepts into Italian using one word. According to the context you might choose a different term as a translation, or keep the English term if you’re talking to a specialistic audience. As so often happens, I believe that we don’t have the term in our language because we don’t have this concept in our culture.

Could it be because we prefer the stairs to the elevator?



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About "" Has 116 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog www.italiasocialmedia.com

5 Responses to “Elevator Pitch Translation – Marketing Translation Class n°1”

  1. Alina Cincan says:

    So right you are! English allows surprising combinations, noun-verb shifting, adjectifying (see how easy it was to invent a word?), while other languages are slightly more rigid. For instance, Google can be used as a verb – to google – but if I were to translate it into Romanian I would have to render it as “to search on Google”.
    I particularly like the way you presented the whole process of researching a term and trying to come up with the best solution possible. In the case of “elevator pitch”, as well as other terms not yet adopted in the culture of a certain country, maybe they should be left as such and followed by a brief explanation of their meaning. For instance, the term “mass media” is largely used in Romanian, as the translated version would be way too long to be a viable option.
    Great post, Chiara!

  2. Chiara Grassilli says:

    Dear Alina,
    thank you very much for your comment. You are perfectly right saying that English is much more flexible than other language, and this is the reason why sometimes it is so difficult to translate some English words into more “rigid” languages such as Romanian or Italian.

    I also agree with you that the most common trend is to keep the English term, and provide maybe a short explanation. This is what I usually do and it is a good practice.

    However, I noticed that the English terms sometimes don’t recall in the reader any known cultural references: it means that he might understand the word rationally, but deeply inside he’s left with a doubt, because in his cultural background there is nothing he can relate this word to.

    That’s why I like to find alternative terms into the target language, maybe not as accurate as the English one, but surely more close to the mental background of the reader.

    Fascinating stuff that only translators can appreciate 🙂

    See you soon


    • Alina Cincan says:

      Indeed, all these subtleties, struggles, brain-storming and research are best appreciated by translators. I am still dreaming of the day when all clients will understand what lies behind a translation and what a complex process it is.

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