Transcreation is a process that goes beyond literal translation. The goal of transcreation is multilingual content with the same emotional impact as the source content.

What does transcreation involve, when should it be used, and what you should look for in selecting a language partner for transcreation services?

Transcreation: What Is It?

Transcreation is the practice of adapting or rewriting marketing content in a target language to reach local markets with the same impact as the original. Transcreators are writers and linguists who use traditional translation tools to manage termbases and ensure consistency across translations. A transcreation project begins with the original marketing materials as well as a creative brief for describing key concepts. The original text is a valuable reference, but instead of translating it word-for-word, the transcreator freely adapts it to maximize local appeal.

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Transcreation: When to Use It?

There are many reasons why you might want to use transcreation services for multilingual marketing:

  1. You know or suspect that the original marketing piece has elements that are specifically tailored for cultural appeal in the US.
  2. A cultural assessment of the piece has indicated that a straight translation might not resonate in some cultures.
  3. Your translated marketing materials are not having the desired effect in certain markets.
  4. The expense of hiring an overseas marketing agency is not warranted.
  5. 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 websites and digital campaigns targeted to 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.

screenshot of P&G website for the Arabian Peninsula

screenshot of P&G's website for China

screenshot of P&G website for France

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.

Creative brief
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.

Cultural consulting
The transcreator will 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.

Partner relationship
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.

Great content deserves expert localization. Contact us to learn more about translation for global marketing.