A couple of years ago, MTM LinguaSoft added “transcreation” to our roster of services. In our first blog post on transcreation, we defined transcreation as a process that, unlike traditional translation, goes “beyond reproducing meaning to creating something that will have the same emotional impact in another culture.”
Today, we’ll look more deeply into what transcreation involves, when it should be used, and what practices you should look for in selecting a language partner for transcreation services.
Trancreation: What Is It?
Transcreation means taking original marketing content and adapting or rewriting it in a target language so that it will resonate in local markets and have the same impact as the original. It is an alternative to using a local marketing agency to prepare a campaign from scratch or using local copywriters to write copy to fit an existing concept. Transcreators are writers but also linguists who use traditional translation tools, such as CAT tools and TMs, which help to ensure consistency across translations. They begin with the original text or the marketing materials, rather than a concept, but they use the original text only as a reference, freely adapting it to have the desired local appeal. They are also cultural consultants who can advise on other aspects of a marketing piece.
Transcreation: When to Use It?
There are many reasons why you might want to use transcreation services for your marketing:
- You know or suspect that the original marketing piece has elements that are culturally specific.
- A cultural assessment of the piece has indicated that a straight translation might not resonate in some cultures.
- Your translated marketing materials are not having the desired effect in certain markets.
- The expense of hiring an overseas marketing agency is not warranted.
- You want to conduct a unified marketing campaign that shares an overall look and feel that reflects the brand characteristics you want to project.
According to Common Sense Advisory:
Typical projects that require transcreation include web campaigns that don’t attract customers in other markets, ads that are based on wordplay, humor that is directly related to just one language or culture, or products and services that need to be marketed to diverse demographics within the same market.
P&G’s websites for the Arabian Peninsula, China, and France start with the same shell, but feature different images and information on their home page.
Transcreation: Best Practices
Selection of transcreators
The linguists assigned to the job should be native speakers of the target language. They must also be fully bilingual so they can understand the nuances of the source material. They should be proven creative writers, experienced with copywriting or marketing transcreation.
Because transcreation requires expertise in local sensitivities, customs, and usages, they should be in the relevant country or locality so that they are steeped in the culture on a day-to-day basis. There are expatriates who are very good translators into their native language, but in most cases are not up to date on the changing culture and practices of their home country.
Just as any marketing campaign begins with a creative brief so should a transcreation project. Your language partner can develop this based on consultations with you.
The transcreator needs to have:
- information about the product or service being marketed
- demographic information about the intended audience
- a description of the message you are trying to convey
- an understanding of what the piece is trying to achieve: positive brand associations, immediate action, etc.
- style directions, such as how brand names are to be presented.
The transcreator should also be able to give advice on the cultural suitability of other elements of the advertisement, marketing piece, website or other material. Colors, graphics, and other stylistic elements may not appeal to the target audience, and may have associations that contradict your message— or, worse, offend your audience. Advising on these elements and suggesting specific changes is also part of the transcreator’s work.
The transcreation process is a true partnership process between you, your language partner, and the transcreator assigned to the project. Be prepared to have someone available to respond to questions and implement or give feedback on the transcreator’s suggestions about design.
Transcreation is usually charged by the hour instead of by the word and you can expect it to be a more expensive process than translation. But effective marketing is all about getting a message across and you can pay a lot to an agency to develop those messages for you. You should expect to pay more to make sure that your message is effective in every language.
- Rebecca Ray and Nataly Kelley, Reaching New Markets Through Transcreation: When Translation Isn’t Enough, Common Sense Advisory (March 2010)
- Nataly Kelly, “Six Ways Transcreation Differs from Translation,” Smartling blog (Jul 21, 2014)