The power of transcreation

Before we get stuck in, you might be wondering exactly what we mean by transcreation.

Think of it as translation’s sophisticated cousin. Whereas translation provides a literal equivalent of your copy, transcreation is more of an adaptation process.

It takes into account the culture of the country it’ll be broadcast in, and the intricacies of the language. With this, transcreation adapts your original copy into new copy that carries exactly the same message, but using phrasing that’s best suited to its new language.

Why is it important?

For most businesses, having a strong global presence is desirable, but that brings a responsibility to understand each market as individual audiences. They don’t communicate exactly alike, and hold different ideas about what’s familiar phrasing and what’s taboo.

Just because you brilliantly articulate the benefits of your brand to a British audience in English, doesn’t mean you can achieve the same intent, style and tone by using a straight translation service.

To really speak to an audience and capture their interest, you need to be speaking in their language as a native.

Especially when you’ve invested months and significant budget on a brilliant campaign, doesn’t it seem simply a waste not to ensure it’s transcreated for your other markets?

Brits, for example, are prone to tip-toe around expressing requests, in hopes of sounding polite, and are partial to niche turns of phrase. To some Europeans though, our phrasing may sound waffling or bumbling.

Conversely, Europeans’ more direct, literal way of speaking can be interpreted as curt to our sensibilities.

Translation troubles

Even some of the world’s biggest brands have had some serious mishaps when it comes to using straight translation for foreign markets.

KFC’s famous “finger-lookin’ good” headline is a classic, isn’t it?
Well, not so much in China. When translated into Chinese, it means “eat your fingers off.” Not quite so tempting anymore.

Pepsi, trying to communicate its refreshing properties, released the tag-line: “Brings you back to life”. But again, the Chinese translation didn’t quite hold the same message. In fact, “brings your ancesters back from the grave” mightily offended much of the audience.

Fellow beverage brand Coors’ “Turn it loose” campaign was all about letting your hair down and having a good time. But as they soon discovered, ‘turn it loose’ translates as a Spanish colloquialism for having diarrhea. Oops.

So why isn’t transcreation the norm?

There are two main reasons that transcreation isn’t the commonplace method.

First of all, it’s a more time-consuming process compared to translation, which can be done almost instantly through online programs and services. For brands hoping to achieve fast speed-to-market, it might not fit into timelines.

Secondly, the cost is also likely to be higher, due to needing a native copywriter to ensure your copy is saying what you want it to say.

However, transcreation isn’t the smartest choice in every single case. Campaign headlines, subheads and product benefit claims would definitely benefit from transcreation services. But pages of instructions or fairly straightforward details that are devoid of emotional tone? Here transcreation might be too much of an investment to justify the end.

If you have any questions around transcreation, or would like our help with campaigns that can truly flex globally, drop us a line.

Phil Blackmore

Phil Blackmore

Creative Director

The healthcare industry is bursting with extraordinary and ingenious ideas that have the power to transform the way we live and empower people to take control of their own health. Healthcare marketing, on the whole, is not. I’m proud to be part of an agency that’s changing that.