What is transcreation and how can it help your business


What is transcreation and how can it help your business




Transcreation is a form of creative translation that can help you grow your online business exponentially by giving you access to new foreign markets.

Think about the Spanish market for example. More than 500 million people in the world speak Spanish. So, in theory, all you have to do to sell in that market is to translate your advertising materials into Spanish, right?

Well, almost. What you need is a mixture between translation and copywriting to evoke the emotions and context of your original advertising messages. What you need, in short, is transcreation.

And transcreation is not something any translator or translation agency can do. A good transcreation professional needs to have a very specific skills set, otherwise it could turn into what I call the Neverland effect for your customers…


The Neverland experience of bad transcreation


Many years ago, I took an organized trip to Vietnam. I was fascinated by its history and culture and decided that I wanted to see the country. And even though it really is a fascinating country, the trip turned out to be a little different than I expected…

I have always enjoyed traveling independently, but it can be a lot of hard work. You have to find accommodation, food, transportation… etc. It’s not all just sightseeing and fun.

So, for once, I thought, I wanted to relax and let others do all the hard work.

Unfortunately, I ended up spending the whole two weeks talking to other Spaniards in my group and not interacting at all with the locals, except perhaps at markets and hotels.

I came back feeling like I had been to a sort of strange Neverland… it almost felt as if I hadn’t really been there at all!

I had seen the whole country as a collection of beautiful pagodas, temples and landscapes, but all without a real emotional connection to it. I had not been able to integrate because I had been constantly surrounded by other Spaniards.

In other words, being surrounded by fellow countrymen in a foreign country had made the experience feel a little fake or out of context.

Well, using regular translation or bad transcreation for your advertising materials can have this strange Neverland effect on your customers.

All the words are there, but the emotion and context are missing, making your copy sound strange, empty or even completely off to native speakers.


transcreation vs translation


Transcreation vs translation


Would you translate a poem the same way you translate a software manual?

The key to poems, advertising or any kind of creative text is the concept, the core message that you want to get across. And this can only be recreated if you have a deep understanding of your audience, the subject and the target and source languages.

A literal or near literal translation of an advertising piece misses on cultural awareness and doesn’t take things like design or channel into account, making it very difficult to make a real impact in the target market.

Only a copywriter with the right skills can achieve the desired effect. A simple translation can totally miss the point or even backfire and damage your brand’s reputation.


What you should look for in a transcreation professional


  • Language credentials – Transcreators must have a great command of the source language, but they must be great copywriters in the target language too. Never hire a transcreator whose mother tongue is other than the target language.


  • Copywriting and marketing credentials – Make sure your transcreator is an experienced copywriter who understands marketing terminology and can interpret a marketing brief. Things like buyer persona, buyer’s journey or unique selling proposition should not require further explanations from your side.


  • Ties to the target audience – Not only should a transcreator be a native of the target language, he should also have deep ties to the target market because he must be up to date with local culture and context to be able to do a great job.


  • Content expertise – A transcreator needs to be an expert in the information that is being translated. How can you sell, for example, a financial product if you don’t understand it?


5 types of copy for which transcreation is ideal


  1. Slogans
  2. Headlines
  3. Taglines
  4. Advertising campaigns
  5. Brochures


Choosing a transcreator with industry experience is key to starting on the right foot in a new market. Make sure you don’t wander into Neverland on your next foreign language campaign.

By the way, a couple of years later, I ended up spending three months in beautiful Vietnam. But this time I traveled completely on my own and got to appreciate the warmth and kindness of the Vietnamese people. Don’t miss it if you get the chance!

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