Transcreation – More Than Just Creative Translation

16. March 2023
Transcreation – More Than Just Creative Translation
Barbara Kealey
Project Management

Transcreation, a mixture of 'translation' and 'creation', is now also often referred to as "cultural adaptation" or even "global brand voice". It represents a steady move away from the concept of translation, but does transcreation actually mean? Is it a translation service or does it belong to marketing? Are there projects for which neither translation nor transcreation is possible? Which challenges are there and which providers can best overcome them?

Transcreation vs. translation: What's the difference?

The primary differences between transcreation and translation can be summarized as follows:

  • Text types
  • Target audience
  • Time resources and budget
  • Workflow

We can refer to transcreation as a collective term for different types and levels of marketing translation. It involves developing or adapting new content for a specific target audience in a different language instead of "just" translating existing material.

Transcreation is therefore a creative process in which the focus is not on the wording of the original text, but on the emotional message. This message is intended to elicit a certain response in the target language. Among the tools used to craft this message are:

  • Creative language
  • Content tailored to the local market
  • Humor
  • Wordplay
  • Idioms
  • And many more

Of course translators also take cultural factors into account with any translation and adapt texts to suit specific aspects of the target country. After all, there is a reason why only native speakers living in the target country translate for Eurocom. Nevertheless, pure translations stick much more to the original text, with the focus being on reproducing the content as clearly as possible in the target language.

To transcreate or not to transcreate?

We recommend using transcreation primarily for advertising and marketing texts, such as slogans, posters, brand and product names, but also websites and entire marketing campaigns. The transcreated messages are intended to appeal at an emotional level and sound as if they were originally created for the new market. In addition to newly developed texts, transcreation can also include the use of other images, music, or formatting.

Sometimes advertising campaigns are so specific in their content, form, or humor to a specific market that transcreation cannot achieve the desired goal. In such cases you need to develop something completely new for the target audience, such as shooting a completely new TV commercial instead of adapting an existing one.

One example would be the slogan of the cellphone operator Orange in the 1990s: "The future's bright, the future's Orange". This had to be changed for Northern Ireland, where the color orange's – thanks to is strong associations with Protestantism – aroused quite a different response among the local population.

The automotive industry has also frequently fallen foul of this phenomenon, experiencing embarrassing marketing flops when the model names have different meanings in certain markets. Consider the Toyota "MR2", which sounds like "merde" in French, or the Mitsubishi "Pajero", which is a swear word in Spain. As the "Montero", the model eventually sold in much better numbers.

What must be considered during transcreation?

A transcreation project is very different in terms of time and budget from a normal translation. Instead of charging on the basis of word prices, transcreation projects are usually billed on an hourly basis. In addition to the creative transcreation process, time must also be allocated to the most fundamental part of the project workflow: the creative brief.

Transcreation expert and author of "Translation-Transkreation – Vom Über-Setzen zum Über-Texten" Nina Sattler-Hovdar defines transcreation as follows:

"I apply transcreation to any text that requires the expertise to decide, based on a comprehensive briefing, how much I can carry over from the source text into the target text, how much I need to rewrite or replace with entirely new content, and how best to do it."

For translation projects, the client provides the source text and reference material. In a transcreation project, they must also provide all the available background information about the target market and define their expectations for the desired message as precisely as possible. This cannot be clarified in a single conversation, but rather takes place through regular dialog.

At the end of the process there are often several options for the client to choose from, such as in the case of a slogan transcreation. In most cases, the transcreators also translate the result back into the source language, so that the client can have a better insight into the statement and effectiveness of the transcreation in the target language.

Can just anyone offer transcreation as a service?

Marketing and advertising projects are often about large sums of money, and a failed advertising campaign brings not only financial losses, but also reputational damage. These projects therefore require a collaboration with experienced professionals.

The requirements expected of a transcreation are significantly higher than those of a pure translation. Not only does the transcreator need to have the necessary linguistic skills in the source and target language, but they also require creativity, marketing expertise, and an extensive knowledge of the target market and its cultural idiosyncrasies.

Transcreation providers fall into three categories:

  1. Niche companies that specialize in transcreation
  2. Large translation agencies or agencies with experience in marketing and advertising translations
  3. Advertising agencies specializing in multicultural markets

Projects with a high visibility and range are not necessarily suitable for experiments. The advantages of translation service providers such as Eurocom lie in the trust already gained through many years of successful cooperation and professional experience. After all, marketing translations including transcreation have long been an integral part of our translation service.

Summary: Transcreation is an investment that pays off

As we have seen, transcreation is in many ways different from a translation, which also results in a price difference compared to a per-word rate. In addition, a transcreation includes an accurate briefing, research, and the creative process. However, the additional effort is worthwhile: the outcome is a solution that is specially crafted for the target market and appeals directly to the target audience!

Benefit from our many years of expertise in marketing and advertising translations for your transcreation projects. Arrange an appointment with us and find out more! If you do not want to miss out on any further information or tips, then sign up for our newsletter.

If you are interested in transcreation or any other services offered by Eurocom, please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!

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