Creating marketing that resonates with local audiences takes time. But it’s effort well spent, as it’s essential to ensure you’re conveying the correct message to global audiences without losing its core meaning. 

Get it wrong, and it could be hugely costly to fix. The message might not land as intended or, worst of all, it could cause offence and even tarnish your brand image globally.

That’s why simply translating your content won’t cut it. Translation doesn’t account for the nuances of culture or language.

Instead, focus on transcreation. Through transcreation, you can ensure your marketing campaigns build brand awareness, drive engagement, and increase global revenue.

But what is transcreation? And how is it different from translation or localization?

What Is Transcreation?

Transcreation – a portmanteau of “translation” and “creation” – is the process of translating text and then restructuring that text to adhere to the cultural and linguistic standards of the target audience within another country.

As its name suggests, transcreation is not a word-for-word translation of language. It also considers the impact of images, colours, structure, and design.

The concept of transcreation was first created during the 20th century in India for the main purpose of translating imported entertainment, such as movies and books. But it can be used for anything language based.

For example, transcreated content could be marketing assets, like ad copy, or it could be content in a video game. Or, indeed, anything in between.

The adoption of transcreation in marketing and advertising didn’t take off until the 1990s. During this time, companies began to see the potential of connecting with global customers by adapting the tone and style of content to reflect the local culture.

Why Is Transcreation So Important?

Small cultural differences can have a big impact on the meaning of your brand messaging. And this importance is amplified in marketing, where very visible campaigns can have a huge impact on the success of your business in global markets.

Direct translation has several pitfalls, one being the issue of cultural sensitivity. And even small changes can mean the difference between connecting with your customers or alienating them.

When KFC entered the Chinese market in the 1980s it learned the importance of transcreation the hard way. Unfortunately, when its famous slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated into Mandarin, it ended up being miscommunicated as “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

Remember the famous catchphrase of The American Dairy Association, “Got Milk”?

Well – unfortunately – the direct translation into Spanish means... “Are you lactating?”

What is the Difference Between Translation, Localization, and Transcreation?

Transcreation is often confused with localization or translation. But, as you’re probably now aware, there are substantial differences between the three.

So, what is the difference between translation and transcreation? Where does localization come into things? And how should they be implemented to adapt content for global audiences?

Translation vs. Transcreation

Translation is the process of converting text word for word from one language to another while staying true to its original meaning.

During this process, text content can lose some of its cadences and intended purpose because other cultures don't recognize certain sayings and idioms.

Translation is most useful for technical content - user guides and specifications – which may need to be direct translations as they relate to the use of specific products or services. 

Localization vs. Translation

After the text has been translated, it’s essential for it to be localized. The localization process involves revising the content to align with the local culture of the target audience.

If a translation is to transform the text, then localization transforms the content to adhere to cultural norms within that region.

For example, Coca-Cola’s "Share a Coke" campaign had personalized names on the labels. When selling bottles of coke in different regions, Coca-Cola changed the names on each bottle to include local names for the specified country.

Transcreation vs. Translation

To successfully achieve transcreation, the translator and the original writer must work closely to tell the same compelling story in both languages, alongside adhering to the local culture. It respects, from the beginning, the intent of the source text.

For example, the computer hardware manufacturer Intel had to change its slogan "Sponsors of Tomorrow" for the Brazilian market.

In Portuguese, the current slogan signified that Intel wouldn’t immediately deliver on its promises, which led Intel to change its tagline for the Brazilian market to "In Love with the Future." 

The Challenges of Transcreation

As you can see above, transcreation is a complex process. And with complex linguistic processes comes a significant challenge.


    Though the content you would like to transcreate is usually short in length, it can take a lot of time to produce high-quality and accurate transcreated content.

    Too often we see companies rush the transcreation to adhere to a client’s tight deadline, which can impact the quality and accuracy of their content. Quality is incredibly important when it comes to transcreation.

    Choosing the Right Resources

      Content that has been transcreated is normally highly visible, like websites, slogans, and subtitles for video and audio content.

      So, it’s imperative you hire the right talent for the job. Look to employ talent that is creative, resourceful, and is, ideally, a native speaker of the language you are targeting.

      Research & Context

        For transcreation to be successful, you need to conduct extensive research to ensure the desired message is conveyed accurately and authentically.

        Anyone working on transcreation copy needs to get a feel for the overall experience a customer will go through, so they have a good context of what needs and doesn’t need to be included.

        Linguistic Limitations

          The majority of content will have character limitations, and this needs to be maintained in multiple languages and the content needs to be displayed correctly.

          The difficult part of transcreating specific technical terminology is that you need to consider the meaning of these terms as it can impact the fluency of the text post transcreation.

          4 Tips for Successful Transcreation

          As you can see, even big brands have blunders when it comes to targeting local audiences in different countries. And that’s why it’s now more important than ever for you to set up your transcreation process for success.

          1. Transcreate the Right Content

          It’s important to consider which marketing and advertising materials you need to transcreate, as you may not have to transcreate all your content for different locales.

          Some of those pieces of content and assets may include taglines, websites, marketing ads, product descriptions, and subtitles. The truly high-value content.

          2. Do Your Research

          Research is hugely important when it comes to transcreation. Your transcreation partners, and everyone involved in the process, should be living and breathing the target language, culture, and your brand.

          The transcreator should be a native, and fully aware of linguistic development, cultural shifts, and any new colloquialisms that could impact your work.

          Make sure you’re working with a well-respected and expert transcreation provider, or agency that has a strong partnership with one (like us!).

          3. Set Clear Goals

          Measuring the success of a transcreation project isn’t always straightforward. As explained above, part of the value of transcreation is to ensure you don’t encounter situations that impede your global success.

          That said if you’re changing translated content for transcreated content, or have comparable data you can use, top of your list should be A/B testing to understand the impact transcreation is having in those areas.

          Fundamentally, your main goal should always be to keep the same style, tone, and intent within your transcreated content. And to ensure this, it’s a good idea to employ a third-party reviewer to keep an eye on transcreation quality.

          4. Consider Performance: Multilingual SEO

          One aspect that is not always considered with transcreation is certain performance elements. The focus is rightly the linguistic quality of transcreation but being aware of the value and impact of multilingual SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), for instance, is hugely valuable.

          The whole point of transcreation is to give global audiences the best possible chance to find your products and services through search in their language.

          Final Thoughts

          To take your brand message across the globe, you need to strongly consider transcreation.

          Transcreation helps you to communicate with your customers worldwide by unifying brand messaging and by creating a local customer experience that is unique to the culture of that specific country.

          By following these useful tips, you’ll be able to connect with global customers and evoke the same emotions as those of your native customers without causing offense because of cultural differences. 

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