The Complete Guide to Transcreation

By Al Tamehi
In Translation
Jun 12th, 2017

Transcreation – Creating resonance beyond words


In today’s international marketing we are faced with global values and beliefs creating diverse sensitivities, preferences and expectations among the consumers. Here arises the question of how to kick start and push forward a successful advertising campaign on a global scale.

Generally there are three main choices offered by translation companies:

  • Straight forward translation
  • Localization
  • Transcreation

In this article we analyze Transcreation as the answer to global marketing and advertising. Where a quality Translation is measured by its precision and accuracy, Transcreation is measured by how much it resonates and rings emotionally to the target consumer. Company websites, brochures, marketing drives and advertising should be conducted in a manner to create the greatest punch in the target language, this is achieved by Transcreation.


What is Transcreation?

Transcreation (sometimes referred to as creative translation) is mainly used by the marketing and advertising industry specifically referring to the process of translating a text from one language to the other; encompassing the translation of its content, style, emotions, intent and culture. As the result, the translated text in the target language should arouse the same emotions and implications as the text in the source language. In brief Transcreation is to take the spirit of a text and re-create it in another language. Having said this, Transcreation is a must when your message should carry the same voice, style and meaning in another language.


Transcreation is a comparatively new phenomenon in translation industry and there are still arguments about its specific definition. However it was finally registered as a UK Trade mark back in the year 2000. The term Transcreation was first used during the 6os and 70s as a process of translating in a highly creative language. This method of translation was later picked up in the 1980s by the video game industry striving hard to satisfy users in different countries with varying cultures. They had to make the games more and more entertaining so everything had to be localized to match the target market; names, video scripts, the scenery and characters. This feature was truly recognized in the 1990s where the advertising agencies realized that in a global market to distinguish their work something more than just a translation was needed.

Today Transcreation is one of the mainstream methods in the translation industry with its importance becoming more and more apparent for international vendors. As this notion has gained ground new departments have been formed by advertising agencies specializing in this field or new companies have been formed solely providing Transcreation services.


The goal of Transcreation

To make headway in a global market advertising companies need to capture the hearts and minds of their customers in other countries just as they do at home. This can’t be done by a straightforward translation of their message; they have to rise above both language and cultural barriers. This is a complex job, it needs to consider and respect the culture, heritage, traditional values, beliefs and even the dialects of the target language. The lack of admiration for any of these parameters would mean failure in opening a new market. Therefor to encounter this challenge, transcreation is gaining esteem.

To put it simply the aim is not to translate the same text in another language, but to get the same feedback in the other language.


Transcreation vs. Translation

Translation and Transcreation are intertwined with each other. However each has its own unique identity. Translation can be done in two ways; word – for – word or by paraphrasing (rewording). The word – for – word method has long been put aside. A good standard translation should consider the terminology, grammar, composition, idioms and the readability of the translated text at the same time remaining loyal to the content of the original text.

Transcreation is built on the foundation of a quality translation. Here the emphasis is no longer on the verbatim of the text, but on realizing the perception of the audience in the target market. Therefore the transcreator needs to completely recreate the concept of the original text. Hence faithfulness to the original text becomes subordinate. To put this distinction between Translation and Transcreation into perspective the following lines can be drawn:

  1. A transcreator should be a first class translator and a creative writer.
  2. The Company asking for Transcreation in addition to the original text should provide the concept and the desire it wants to initiate in the minds and hearts of the target audience.
  3. In contrast to Translation which is rated by word count, Transcreation is evaluated on a hourly basis, similar to work of a designer.
  4. Accurate Translation is the answer for all Academic or explanatory texts. However when you are dealing with a marketing text aiming to promote and initiate the emotions of a target audience Transcreation is the solution.
  5. In Transcreation the texts are usually creative scripts of logos, posters or commercials.

Therefor Transcreation matures translation not by focusing on literacy, but by conceiving the cultural differences, avoids consequences of cross-cultural marketing.


Pros & Cons of Transcreation

Having defined Transcreation and its differences with translation we can analyze the Pros & Cons of it.

Pros of Transcreation:

– The most striking and engaging method to convey a message to a target audience.

– The most effective and efficient method in localized marketing.

– The most proficient way to access new customers by capturing their minds and hearts at the same time.

Possible Cons of Transcreation:

– The most expensive kind of translation.

– The most lengthy process due to numerous consultation stages.

– The most demanding method requiring brilliant bilingual creative writers.

– The original message may be completely recreated.


How a Transcreation is done?

The process of a Trancreation task is summarized in the following steps:

  • Review of the content by experts determining whether a Transcreation is feasible.
  • Specifying the budget, taking into consideration the size and the scope of the content.
  • To balance the expectations and foreseeable prospects of the customer demands, detailed questioners are filled and signed by two sides. A common phrase used for this part of the process is, “Linguistic Validation Process”.
  • At this stage the Transcreation team starts work. Transcreators should be fully bilingual and the target language should be their mother language. This is a must in order to facilitate a quality Transcreation.
  • The team assesses the content in a creative way, classifying the differences in language, culture, beliefs and behavior.
  • After this analytic approach, Transcreation starts with the aim of inciting a similar feedback as the original content in the target language.
  • On completion of this stage revisions are made on the basis of the client’s requests, ensuring his or her complete satisfaction.
  • Upon the approval of the client the final content is proofread and presented.


Global Examples of Successful Transcreation

We defined Transcreation as a method to adapt a written content from one language to the other, obviously a vital part of a global marketing strategy. In this context there are many famous and not too famous examples of Transcreation in work. Here we review some of them.

Indian Spider-Man: One famous piece of Trancreation was the introduction of an Indian Spider- Man fighting the wizard in Taj Mahal. In this way the Indian audience connected enthusiastically with this creation, boosting comic book sales to all time high.

Share a Coke: This was a real marvel in Transcreation successes. The company initiated a campaign where on Coca- Cola cans instead of the famous brand writing, popular names of the relevant country were printed. This really captured the heart of the customers; where in Britain it wrote, “Share a Coke with Wills and Kate” (The Royal couple) and in China popular nicknames were used.

McVeggie – McArabia – McRice burgers: The American fast food giant used Transcreation to dig into the desires of customers in different regions of the globe. The vegetarian burger was introduced in India and toasted rice cakes were introduced in Singapore. The names and advertising lines chosen for these products were the work of Transcreators.

On the other hand there have been serious flaws where Transcreation has not been used by a manufacturer resulting in damage to brand image of the concerned company. One outstanding example of such a case was back in 2011 when the renowned sportswear brand PUMA in an advertising move produced special trainers in the color of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) flag in honor of its 40th National Day. The company didn’t realize that in the Arabic culture shoe is considered as something unclean and thrown as a gesture of dislike and hate towards a person or a picture. Realizing this cross culture difference, they quickly withdrew the trainers from the market.

One other example is the use of “Fitta” as the name of a car model not realizing that this name in the Nordic countries carried and offensive meaning. They acted fast and changed the name of the car model.

Chevrolet Nova was a typical case of cross-culture hazard in global marketing. One of the reasons that the sale of this car model in Latin American countries was so low was later analyzed to be the root of the name Nova, because “No Va” in Spanish means, “Doesn’t go”!!

These examples show all too well the challenges Transcreators face and the absolute necessity of Transcreation in global marketing.


Who is capable of doing Transcreation?

Generally a Transcreator is a professional translator who is also an expert in copywriting. The qualities he or she should possess are:

– Superb language skills.

– Fully bilingual, born and educated in the country of the target audience. He or she should live and think in the target language.

– Extensive knowledge of the target market.

– Ability to write creatively in order to adapt and refine a message for the target audience.

– Having advertising and copywriting skills.

– Having knowledge of advertising regulations in addition to media and commercial backgrounds of the target audience.

– Its best that the Transcreator is resident in the country of the target audience. In this way the transcreation will be up to date with the current events occurring there.

Standard Rates for Transcreation – Why so expensive?

The first point which should be emphasized is that due to the methodology of writing a Transcreation unlike straightforward translation, it should be paid on an hourly basis. The rate of Transcreation on an hourly basis is calculated and billed according to the following parameters:

– Time spent on the project.

– Time spent on research and brainstorming the idea

– Time spent on discussing and counseling about the idea with the customers.

– Time spent on implementing the suggestions and necessary changes which in the case of Transcreation involves several times depending on the complexity of the content.

A standard chart to compare the rate of different services provided by translating agencies is as follow:

  • Non- Professional Translation: ($)
  • Professional Translation: ($$)
  • Bilingual Copywriting : ($$)
  • Professional Transcreation: ($$$)
  • Multinational Transcreation: ($$$$)

Final verdict

Companies pursuing to advertise their products in different languages have to choose between a set of options, starting from upfront translation at one end to full international Transcreation on the other. The right choice relies on the following parameters:

  • Nature of the text.
  • The final goal and objective of the project.
  • The scope of the project.
  • The financial resources allocated to the project.

Hence to run a large international marketing project, the message should resonate beyond words and this is done by Transcreation.

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