What is Transcreation?
Transcreation is the process of adapting text or a message from one language and culture to another, while maintaining the impact and intention of the original. It’s a term that’s been formed by combining ‘translation’ and ‘creation’. A successfully transcreated project should carry the same implications and evoke the same emotions in the target language, and to the target audience, as the original did in the source language. Note that transcreation can also involve changing layouts, images and video. Translators engaging in transcreation are sometimes called copywriters, copyeditors or ‘transcreators’.
- Targets specific demographics
- Raises brand awareness
- Attracts new business
- Demonstrates cultural sensitivity and respect for your target audience
- Locates your company in the new (target) market
- Increases online engagement
- Improves SEO
- Shows existing customers that your business is expanding
Relationship with Translation
Although some translators are also transcreators, it is important to note that the two processes are distinct. Transcreation is a creative process — which requires giving the transcreator some independence to alter and re-work the copy. Transcreation is sometimes compared to “free” translation, however this is not strictly accurate since transcreation can involve entirely replacing copy and/or concepts, rather than simply re-writing. As well as linguistic expertise, transcreation requires creativity, copy-writing skills and a comprehensive cultural understanding of the target market.
The Purpose of Transcreation
We all understand that some colloquial phrases and sayings cannot be translated word-for-word into another language. So, we look instead for an equivalent. Also, poetry — which is full of interpretation and nuance — cannot be translated literally. When it comes to marketing, advertising and sales, we are trying to find a voice which ‘speaks’ directly to our target audience and, most importantly, triggers a response or action. As such, it is important to consider the impact of copy, imagery, slogans and taglines within different cultural norms.
To be successful, advertising must illicit an emotional engagement — your message must be relatable! So overcoming any cultural barriers is crucial for an effective global strategy. Cultural factors such as dialect, mores, idiom, humour, formalities and references should be considered.
As a result, many companies are now integrating transcreation into their localisation strategies. A good transcreator will connect with your target audience and maximise cultural references and impact. This can be achieved by using cultural heritage, shared values and practices, as well as social cues, and their reception. These elements are known to influence consumer behaviour and reaction.
Transcreation can also have a positive effect on SEO — user experience and current content are two essential factors in Search Engine Optimisation. Using transcreation when localising your website can be beneficial.
Transcreation theory was first developed in the field of literary translation. It was adapted for use by the marketing and advertising industries in the 2000s. This approach has become standard, and is being used with great success, in the video game industry and mobile phone apps.
Examples of use
- Samsung transcreated their slogan for the release of the S6 smartphone. In English the phrase was “next is now”. The Arabic translation was “سابق عصره”, which means “Beyond the Present”. The Arabic version carries the same message — of technology that is cutting edge, or ‘of the future’. However, it is also a known expression in Arabic — giving the feeling that the slogan was created for that market, and not just a translation of a pre-existing campaign.
- McDonald’s transcreated their tagline “I’m loving it!” to “I just like it!” for their Chinese campaign. In Chinese, the word “love” is rarely said out loud, and to use it in an ad campaign would be entirely inappropriate. The transcreated version was successful and culturally appropriate.
- In India, the story of Spiderman has been transcreated for Indian audiences. As well as changing the location to Mumbai, spiderman is now Indian-born, with the real name Pavitr. Similarly, the old Spiderman villains have been replaced by demons like Rashasa, and the battles take place against backdrops like the Taj Mahal.
Transcreation requires an understanding of consumers’ expectations and preferences. It shows respect for your target market, and consideration for their culture — which is often the difference between success and failure in a new market. We believe it will be used more and more by companies hoping to establish themselves multinationally.
In the coming weeks, we will be posting a number of related articles to help you decide whether your next campaign should be translated or transcreated.