You may be aware of how important translation is in reaching more potential customers, but there is an additional creative service that can help in ways translation cannot. This service is called transcreation, and it fills in where literal translation does not work. Transcreation is itself adapted from two different words to create a new definition: translation and recreation. Transcreation, then, is a creative rewriting process by the translator to ensure that the message is as powerful as the original from which it has been translated.

Translation, much like art (which we believe it to be in its own right), does not have one correct answer. Due to the subtleties, nuances and complexities of language, two translators can translate the same text and create different sentences. They would not be incorrect, just preferential. That’s why finding a consistent partner can keep stylistic consistency – especially when it comes to marketing and outward-facing material to stay on brand.Venn diagram of transcreation as a visual representation of the crossover between language, emotion and culture

What does transcreation do?

Much like localisation, transcreation involves taking into consideration who the message is reaching out to. It’s all well and good translating, but if you adapt Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ into 'Mach’s einfach' (in German) or 'Simplemente hazlo' (in Spanish), they don’t really have the same impact. Indeed, they don't even use a translated version in Spain, preferring to stick the English-language original.

Transcreation, the art of creative translation, is a service in itself because it requires deep consideration by a marketing-minded translator to ensure that your message keeps its impact and meaning across borders. More than that, it requires an adaptation perhaps of an entire tone to ensure that it remains consistent. That is why it could be good to centralise your translation.

Isn’t it Localisation?

The real advantage of this over localisation is that to the consumer it’s a more accurate representation of your brand. It presents it in a much more successful way, humanising itself (depending on culture) to create a more intimate and personal connection to the demographic. As previously said, it may require a tonal change for each nation – sometimes even regions within a nation – which can make your brand look different around the world to those who know the languages. Despite looking differently, its consistency in overall branding remains, achieving the same desired effect by knowing how to achieve the same impact across cultures.

Frog holding a pen as a creative representation of transcreation

More than Language

What may surprise you is that transcreation is not only language related. Audiences react differently within their cultures to certain things: numbers, structures, images and even colours. Therefore, transcreation can stretch further beyond what you expect as each has cultural expectations. Numbers and colours can cause issues due to superstitions; numbers in your brand name or even phone numbers can make the audience switch off or be wary of your company. You can even do the opposite and gain their trust by using the lucky numbers/colours to improve your brand engagement.

Example of Why You Need It

Let’s give you some examples of why literal translation doesn’t work. The fast-food restaurant, KFC, didn’t invest in transcreation successfully. They changed their ‘Finger lickin’ good’ slogan in China to the less appetising ‘Eat your fingers off’ - a translation that really does not work. On the other hand McDonald’s ‘I’m lovin’ it’ translates easily into the majority of European languages, like ‘Me encanta’ in Spanish.

In China, though, 'love' is too strong a word to be used in a slogan. The definition of it cannot be used casually. That’s why Chinese McDonald's use a slogan that translates into English as, ‘I just like it’ - which is obviously amusing to English speakers as it sounds so nonchalant and passive. In China, though, it’s hugely effective.

Although translation does require the empathy, judgement and skill of a translator, it is usually restrained to be as literal as possible when translating. Transcreation allows the creativity of the translator to flourish, maximising their potential to maximise your potential. That is how transcreation is different and if you are planning to move into markets or are already there, transcreation is the service you need to engage with the target audience as best as possible. That way, you can be trusted around the world with a consistent tone but through appealing to each countries’ sensibilities.

If you’re interested in transcreation or translation, get in touch with us for a free consultation on how we can help you.