Transcreation 101: How To Adapt Your Marketing To Any Country



You might be wondering:

How can I convey my brand’s marketing message to populations in a country different than my own?

Any experienced marketer understands the importance of catering to your target markets needs, wants, desires, and offer solutions for their challenges.


How can you begin to do that when you don’t fully understand the intricate details of the market you are targeting? Never mind not even speaking the language!

Well, you have come to the right place.

Throughout this article we will explain how you can adapt your original marketing messaging into any language, for any country and culture, in a manner that will make your business appear completely local to this new audience. The answer lies in transcreation.

The bottom line is…

Adapt or Die.

When it comes to maintaining a carefully crafted identity, every single aspect of brand management is important.

It could be your tagline, logo, product information, or website graphics; regardless, all of it must speak through one cohesive brand voice and maintain a cohesive brand image.

However, as you can imagine, it is not always possible to translate highly conceptual and creative elements, word for word.

Here’s an example:

The computer chip-maker Intel wanted to bring its successful “Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow” campaign to Brazil. Intel’s research showed that “Sponsors of Tomorrow”, rendered into Portuguese, implies that Intel would not deliver on its promised immediately.

So, they approached the translation in a creative way (aka transcreation). Intel modified the line to read, in Portuguese, “Intel: In love with the future.”

That line appealed to the presumed passionate nature of the target audience in Brazil.

See how this works now?

Sure, Intel could have translated “sponsors of the future” word for word but it would not have resonated with their intended audience. They would have been basically throwing their money away and losing a lot of future revenue by butchering their once successful campaign.

At that point, why translate at all?

As with any business decision, there must be strategy and a goal behind your reasoning for translation. We’ll come back to the strategic advantages of translation services later but for now we’ll answer your burning question…

What exactly is transcreation?!

Transcreation is the act of recreating a message for a target audience in a way that is appropriate and relevant for that audience.

Transcreation is a deeply creative service. It takes much more than just language into consideration.

It requires an intimate knowledge of the source language, the target language, and the target audiences culture in order to engage with consumers, connect with them, and meet their unexpected needs.

With transcreation – the text is created to reflect the emotion, feeling or sentiment of the original copy in a natural linguistic way that will resonate with the target audience in a deeply local and personal way.

Here’s one more example to help drive the point home:

Candy maker, Haribo’s slogan in English reads

“Kids and grownups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”

This is a jingle with a nice rhyme that tells you how wide their appeal is. It’s a great slogan. And, you would never guess that it was transcreated from the original German jingle!

To take a phrase and translate the tone of the message along with the rhyme, metre, and cadence is rare skill and a translation goldmine.

Haribo German ad

Let’s get one thing straight:

Transcreation (and it can be argued, translation in general) is a creative service.

While translation is typically billed at a per word rate, transcreation is billed by the hour like most creative services such as copywriting, graphic design, and video production.

The product the translator is creating can’t be measured by words because they are completely re-creating a message. It takes time and research to determine the best way to effectively transfer meaning and emotion that resonates with a completely new and different audience.

For this reason, we suggest a creative brief before beginning any translation project that involves transcreation.

Instead of providing just the text to your translation agency partner, we suggest providing them with the creative concept and desired action that you are hoping to trigger with the copy. Any and all reference material to help them understand your brand and its goals will help to produce the most reflective translation.

computer screen that reads be creative


Photo by Angelo Pantazis

Gain a Competitive Edge

You’re entering a new market in a new country.

How can you possibly compete with the local brands and other international players?

One way to make yourself stand out…Or rather blend in with the locals and then making yourself shine is through translation services.

Translation, localization, transcreation. Surely you’ve heard these terms thrown around many times. While there are distinct differences between each service, we feel it’s important to point out that there isn’t a black and white delineation between all three.

In fact, if you’re translating your website or brochure for Japan, there is most likely localization and transcreation happening. Sometimes its all behind the scenes.

No need to get hung up on the terminology. The important thing is that the translation agency partner you work with is accurately reflecting your intended message for your new audience.

Below we offer tips to help you with your global marketing campaigns and what to take into consideration when choosing a translation agency partner.

Click here to learn how to take your website global through localization

Tips For a Successful Translation & Transcreation Project

  • Transcreation can be a very subjective process. Together with in-country language teams, create the tone of voice and communication style for your products and brand that you want to achieve in each local market.
  • Consider creating terminology lists that flags idioms, puns and potential product names or descriptions that have no direct equivalent in your target market.
  • Support this creative process by supplying the creative brief for the product or campaign and any visual mockups you have.
  • Remember that your source content is included in your translation memory but never the tweaked versions following transcreation—in other words, transcreation happens apart from your translation memory
  • Know the limits of using your bilingual employees. Your employees, admittedly, will have harbored a great deal of information about your brand; however, they cannot give you scalability because of limits to their availability (i.e. they are doing other work for you).
  • Acknowledge that it takes time to improve quality. Transcreation providers can take many hours to build up an expert knowledge of your brand. Over time, you can expect your turnaround times to shorten while your quality increases.

3 Things to consider when choosing a transcreation partner

1. Transcreation provider must be a content whiz

A language service provider must be able to comprehend the content on every level to be able to successfully adapt the content to the target language. Transcreation providers must also be experts in the information that is being localized.

No matter how well the language service provider knows the target language, if they do not understand the content, the transcreation will not be a success.

Also, if you’ve taken time to have professionals carefully craft your message in your source language, don’t you want professional, experienced communicators to craft your message in your target language?

You want professionals who can understand your global campaign while tailoring your message to best connect with local customers.

2. Transcreation should be performed only into the native language

Communication in a second language, despite how well you may know that second language, never has the same natural flow as communicating in your native language. To maximize success, a native speaker should perform the transcreation.

3. Transcreation provider must have in-depth understanding of target market

A good transcreation should speak to the heart and minds of the target audience, transcending language, culture, content expertise and writing skills.

A good transcreation provider researches and understands the target market and how best to reach them.

A language service provider with knowledge of the target market avoids embarrassing mistakes that may come from not understanding the target audience.

A translator who knows the target market will also have knowledge concerning the local advertising regulations, media and commercial codes.

Click here for more tips on how to choose a translation provider

man standing on edge overlooking a city


Photo by Jeremy Bishop

Extend Your Global Presence

Here’s the bottom line:

If you’re investing in marketing campaigns and investing in your business to extend its reach into new territories across the globe, you simply must invest in translating your brands offers for the local markets.

A large portion of successful marketing is rooted in cultural context and cultural norms. Transcreation is the vehicle that will translate your creative content to ensure it resonates with your audience.

Transcreation enables the same great creative concept to be adapted and improved for use in different international locales.

Speak to your global audience in a language they understand and identify with and you’ll already be miles ahead of the competition.

No matter what type of translation project you are embarking on, it’s always best to be prepared! Click here to download our free translation checklist.


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