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What is Transcreation: A Complete Guide

Here's how it benefits your multilingual strategy.

Filip Smet

Updated on May 1, 2024

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, you might be wondering what transcreation is?

Well, in this article, we hope to provide you with some insight by giving you a complete overview of what it is and how you can best utilise it to your advantage.

So, if you are all set. Let’s get into it.

What is transcription: A Complete Guide

What is Transcreation?

Transcreation is a process that combines translation with copywriting and creation.

It involves taking an existing piece of marketing or writing material and changing it in a way that conveys the same message, but with cultural nuances and references that are more relevant to the target market. In other words, it is a new piece of content that has been ‘transcreated’.

Unlike traditional translation, the process of transcreation is not focused on the word-for-word recreation of a particular piece of content. Instead, the emphasis is on the intended message and how different audiences will receive that message as part of a dedicated marketing campaign.

Transcreation is a creative translation that strives to evoke intended emotions and inspire users to take a call to action while staying true to the brand messaging.

Ultimately, transcreation requires close collaboration and communication between the marketing team or product owner and the transcreator. This is because the transcreator must understand the campaign goals and the brand’s guidelines to produce effective transcreated content.

Examples of Transcreation

To better understand transcreation, it is worth looking at the world of cinematography.

Sometimes, when a film performs well at the box office in a foreign market, US movie producers will try to piggyback on this success by creating a version for American and English-speaking audiences.

A good example of this is ‘The Ring’, the horror film which was based on a Japanese movie called ‘Ringu’. (If you haven’t seen it, the movie revolves around a videotape that is said to cause the death of anyone who watches it).

At its core, the premise of the movie (the deadly video) remains the same, as do many other plot points.

However, many of the film’s details, including settings and names, were changed to appear more relevant to US audiences.

For instance, Japan is swapped with the Pacific Northwest as the setting for the movie.

However, despite these modifications, the film’s goal is the same: to terrify the audience. Subsequently, the emotional impact of the movie didn’t change.

Goal of Transcreation

By and large, transcreation achieves cultural relevance without losing the intended emotional impact.

It is not simply a translation of the source text but a recreation that aligns with the purpose of the original text. 

To put this into context, numerous global brands use transcreation to effectively connect with their target audience.

For instance:

  • McDonald’s adapts its menu to suit local tastes
  • Nike modifies its ad campaigns to cater to Asian or Arabic markets
  • Ikea recreates its catalogues to better resonate with its customers in a specific market

What is the Difference Between Transcreation and Translation?

Essentially, translation and transcreation are two completely different entities. So, it is important to distinguish between the two.

Translation

Translation is the process of conveying the meaning of a text from one language to another. 

While there may be some degree of creativity involved, the translator always uses the source text as a basis – striving to remain faithful to it while making necessary adjustments to ensure accuracy and fluency.

Individuals who provide translation services are generally linguists or experts in a particular field.

Overall, translation content can be incredibly varied, encompassing everything from marketing materials and product descriptions to support messages, user reviews, or technical manuals.

Transcreation

By contrast, transcreation is a highly creative process that requires a great deal of expertise. 

Typically, the individuals who provide transcreation services are a combination of copywriters, linguists, and UX writers. They possess the skills to create a new copy based on a clear creative brief instead of simply making a creative variant of translation.

The ideal transcreated copy should have a natural flow, a local feel, and a persuasive call to action.

Transcreation usually begins with a creative brief, similar to what you would give to a copywriter or content writer in your native language. Additionally, you would also share your campaign goals with the transcreator so that the copy can be tailored to achieve those goals.

Typically, materials like signage, slogans, digital/web banners, and advertisements are some of the most popular items that are transcreated.

What is the Difference Between Transcreation and Localization?

You might know how transcreation differs from translation. But what about localization?

Well, transcreation and localization are two distinct processes used for adapting content to different cultures and languages.

While transcreation is a creative process, localization is a more technical process that involves adapting content to suit the cultural and linguistic preferences of a specific market or region. This includes adjusting currencies, date formats, and other elements specific to that region.

The Importance of a Transcreation Brief

The process of transcreation involves creating a new copy based on a given brief. This instruction might cover the general idea of the topic, guidelines, and relevant information about the target audience.

It may also cover related brand campaign assets, links to existing websites, and examples of previous copies (assuming translations have previously been completed). The transcreator then uses this information to craft a new copy that’s specifically tailored to the market.

This provides transcreators with the freedom to create messaging that forms an authentic connection with your target audience. Subsequently, this approach results in customized messaging for each market, which can be an effective way to engage the local audience.

Additionally, transcreation can help you with local SEO by discovering the relevant topics and keywords for each locale and then building content around their findings for global audiences.

Since transcreation involves creating something new, it can also help you avoid getting penalized by Google for duplicate content.

When Should Transcreation Be Embraced?

You may be wondering when you should use transcreation instead of translation.

Well, translation is suitable for less creative content, like legal documentation, knowledgebase articles, and product content that requires accurate and precise rendering of the source.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to communicate more creative content like email campaigns, slogans, web banners, or anything that has a big business impact, like social media graphics or a landing page on your multilingual website, you should consider using transcreation.

In short, transcreation is an essential technique for any business with a global marketing strategy.

By using it, you can connect with your target audience in a more meaningful way and increase user engagement, as well as metrics like conversion rates, sales, and ROI.

You can also demonstrate strong market knowledge and capture market-specific intent.

Where is Transcreation Most Typically Used?

Transcreation is a process that helps you create a message that makes an emotional connection and triggers a specific action among your users.

This could be anything from visiting your website and signing up for a trial to purchasing your product or leaving a positive review. This process focuses more on the emotional impact of the message and less on the specific wording.

Transcreation is widely used in industries like marketing and advertising, video games, consumer goods, literature, television, and film.

It is particularly useful for creating headlines, slogans, alerts, taglines, in-app dialogue, and social media posts. 

Conclusion

When entering a foreign market, using the same tone of voice that works in your home country is not always effective. That is because different cultures have varying expectations of how a brand should communicate with them.

You just have to look at the difference between the USA, where a direct tone is considered normal, and Japan, where a much softer tone is preferred.

While using the direct approach is common (and maybe successful for you) in the US, it may be perceived as impolite if you plan to use it in Japan.

That is why, to avoid alienating a significant portion of the new market, transcreation should be used to get the tone of voice right.

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About the author

Filip Smet

Filip Smet is a Product Manager for GlobalLink. Hailing from Belgium, he brings a blend of precision and creativity to his work. You can find him spinning his favorite records or honing his backhand on the tennis court when he’s not working.

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