Transcreation: stepping beyond the world of translation

The word ‘translation’ comes from Latin, and it means to bring or carry across. Translation is a human practice that has been around us for thousands of years:  It is commonly agreed that first translation was done during the Mesopotamian period when the Sumerian poem, Gilgamesh, was translated into different Asian languages. Since then, translation has made it possible for societies and cultures all over the world to bridge the barrier of language and help us communicate with one another.

Translation became even more important during the industrial revolution, which led to rapid economic development and laid the foundations for globalization. However, the demand for translation reached new heights thanks to the changes brought about by the digital economy and the internet.

Today any company aiming to market products or services internationally needs to invest heavily on translation: translation is everywhere, on the manual of your TV, on the package label of your medicine, and even on the inspirational message on your Starbucks coffee cup.       

But not all translation is the same! Translation services have become more specialized to server the needs of new industries and ways of communication, and what we generally understand as translation may be well another type of service which is slightly similar but completely different: transcreation.   


What is transcreation?

When it comes to communicating sophisticated messages, such as the ones in a Marketing campaign, word by word translation has proven to be ineffective due to the potential loss of meaning and scant cultural adaptation. In these situations, there is another type of solution known as transcreation which shifts the focus from grammatical equivalence to effectively delivering a message taking into account the emotional and cultural context of the target audience.

Transcreation requires more creativity than translation because it entails adapting a message from a language to another without losing the emotional effect it originally had. Emotional impact and cultural sensitivity are two critical components on every Marketing campaign, so transcreation is crucial for those companies that want to place their products or services on different geographies successfully .


Translation vs. transcreation – How to tell them apart?

Transcreation and translation differ in various aspects. Here are some of them:


Transcreators need to be aware of the client’s needs

Regular translation is especially useful when there is a lot of repetition involved, for example when translating the manual of a car or a legal contract with many similar clauses. However, localizing custom-made messages requires a thorough understanding of the service or product to be marketed. At the end of the day, the goal is to reach to an audience in a way that is commercially attractive. To do so, the transcreator needs to take the client’s general idea into consideration.


Grammar fades into the background, while feel becomes relevant

When it comes to transcreation, it is usually more important to maintain the original emotional impact of the message than the original grammatical structure. Cultural traits must be taken seriously, social context and common preferences are the key to an efficient job.


Proper research and the creative process requires time

Transcreators face the challenge of transforming a given idea, usually with a reference in another language, into a suitable message for a certain group of people. Thus, it is vital to acquire a great understanding of the group’s interests. Gathering and processing this information to deliver a finished textual and graphic product consumes a great amount of time, much more than it would by just switching the text’s language.


Trascreation is more expensive

Transcreation is a sophisticated process and may go well beyond the text. When it comes to marketing products to different cultures, transcreation may involve thinking of new imagery, fonts or color combinations, which overall add up to strategic details that aim to boost the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. For this reason, transcreation is more expensive than regular translation.


Transcreation is not an individual effort

The ideal combination of translation and creation demands more than a translator. Copywriters team up in order to develop an advertising-friendly concept that will be appealing to an audience which thinks and feel different. Group work and brainstorming are important to get the most out of transcreation, and a synergic flow of ideas can guarantee success.


Transcreation is the key to international advertising: Open the world’s doors with it

There are several transcreation success stories around the globe. Perhaps we all can remember the “share a coke” campaign from Coca Cola: The idea behind the campaign was to create engagement by placing ordinary people’s names on coke bottles, so anyone could find their name and feel tempted to buy. The success of the campaign is a clear testament to transcreation efforts. If Coca Cola had used only English names, people in other countries wouldn’t have been able to relate to it. But instead of going for cheap and simple, the company decided to invest and research on the most popular names in every country.

Creativity plays a big part in the international marketing campaigns, so having an open mind about the ideas brought up by transcreators is essential to localize effectively. However, bear in mind that a well-done job takes time, effort and dedication, so be prepared to invest time and money into perfecting the concept that will make your brand a loved all across the world.

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