Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.
If you want your global marketing efforts to succeed, you need to understand the difference between transcreation and translation. There will also be a place for traditional translation, but if you lean on it too heavily, you run the risk of your message landing very differently than how you intended. Localization can help remedy the shortcomings of translation, but even this has its limitations.
To give your marketing campaigns the best chance of success, you need to embrace transcreation. Affording far more flexibility to linguists than standard translation, the transcreation process is a far more creative one. While messaging can appear radically different, an experienced transcreation services provider will strive to retain the core sentiment of the original campaign and maintain consistent branding at every step.
Transcreation is occasionally called creative translation. However, this portmanteau is a little bit misleading. With a few rare exceptions, transcreators won’t do much in the way of translating source content into a new target language. Instead, it’s down to transcreation experts to retool content for a new audience and distinctly different cultural expectations. While transcreated content can appear wildly different from the original, one thing that must remain intact is the intent behind the content.
Transcreation is a critical part of any global marketing strategy. A simple translation from one language into another is rarely going to deliver satisfactory results. Marketing campaigns need to be emotive and evocative. A direct translation is rarely going to achieve this. At best, this approach will yield lackluster campaigns that show little understanding of a new audience and its culture. At worst, a word-for-word translation can produce embarrassing and offensive messaging that can permanently damage a brand’s reputation.
There’s no denying that translation is an involved process requiring considerable skill. However, it lacks the creative angle that a transcreator needs to possess to deliver desirable results. Most of the time, transcreators effectively serve as copywriters, with new content generated as original messaging is adapted for new audiences. Brand-specific imagery, advertising slogans, and even brand names may need to be reconsidered to accommodate the needs of a new market.
While there’s some overlap between transcreation and translation, the two differ in several significant ways.
When it comes to translation, the usual goal is to preserve as much of the original meaning of content as possible. While this means that the end result is authentic, it rarely produces something suitable for the intended audience. Transcreation is comparatively loose, with a focus on adaptation rather than literal translation. The core message remains largely intact, but it’s presented in a different way better aligns with the cultural norms of the target audience.
Compared to translation, transcreation can be considered time-consuming and expensive. However, companies that invest in transcreation are ultimately showing greater respect to target markets than those that don’t. It demonstrates obvious consideration for the cultural norms and nuances of a new market while avoiding any offensive marketing misfires. Audiences benefit from content that’s been thoughtfully localized for their benefit, while brands enjoy enhanced credibility and consumer trust.
When it comes to content like technical manuals and legal documentation, specialized translations are often called for. Translation can be rigid and literal, but these kinds of use cases demand such a level of accuracy. When it comes to advertising and content marketing, standard translation is usually far too restrictive. Here, native knowledge is just as important as language proficiency. As such, transcreation is the only way to go.
Generally speaking, transcreation experts have more in common with copywriters than translators. Someone offering content or marketing translation services may also provide copywriting services. However, these services are almost always considered separate. With transcreation specialists, the line between roles is blurred. Along with copywriting, transcreation also involves copy editing responsibilities.
When being adapted from one language into another, certain content formats go through dramatic changes to appeal to a new market. Transcreation projects generally involve creative content, such as video games, graphic novels, and motion pictures. Characters and dialogue defined by colloquialisms rarely sell well in radically different cultures, with nuances needing to be refined for a new culture.
Many people talk about the bigger picture when expanding into new target markets. However, successful global expansion calls for a local mindset. Each new market is individual and independent of the next, requiring the tailored touch that only transcreation can provide.
Sometimes, this calls for a complete retooling of marketing content to meet the needs of specific markets. Other times, only a few tweaks are required to reshape a message for a new audience. Basic concepts and core sentiments can remain largely unchanged, even if superficial details are wildly different.
Transcreation also has more practical benefits. Less established businesses depend heavily on SEO performance to increase organic traffic performance. Without a strong online presence, it’s almost impossible to remain competitive in regional markets. Transcreation not only delivers rich content that your target audience will want to read but sends all the right signals to search engines that can ultimately lead to improved click-through rates.
An effective marketing campaign can turn a homegrown brand into a global enterprise. However, it’s easy to misstep when marketing in new territories. Many big brands have fallen foul of the embarrassment of literal translations, but words themselves aren’t the only elements of a campaign that need to be adapted for foreign markets.
Innocuous brand logos and imagery may prove inflammatory in other countries, while even the colors used in a campaign may be deemed offensive in certain parts of the world. Marketing transcreation ensures all of these elements are individually assessed and optimized before a campaign is deployed.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing strategy. Unsurprisingly, this means that there’s no uniform approach to transcreation. Target markets, industry sectors, and campaign objectives can all play a role in how the process is shaped. Generally speaking, however, the transcreation process is likely to include the following steps:
A client will provide a briefing to the transcreation team outlining the scope of the project. Some clients may have strict rules in place regarding the repurposing of marketing messages or brand-specific details. Others may give transcreators free rein to make as many changes as they see fit to adapt content for a new market.
Understanding the needs of a target market is crucial to the success of a transcreated marketing campaign. It can help brands gauge the competitiveness of the market, while also observing cultural norms and requirements. Market research into demographics, surveys, and focus groups are all commonly deployed at this point.
Based on the results from cultural analysis and market research, marketing content is ready to be adapted for new audiences. The scope of creative adaptation can vary considerably depending on these findings. In some cases, an original brief will only require a few basic adjustments. In other cases, marketing campaigns may need to be rebuilt from the ground up.
No matter how similar two markets and cultures seem, linguistic adaptation can’t be avoided. Linguistic adaptation can involve transcreating iconic taglines, heavily reworking existing scripts, and developing brand-new copy that will resonate with local audiences.
Once initial work on marketing transcreation has been completed, it’s time to review progress. If transcreation providers have been keeping clients in the loop at every stage, there shouldn’t be too much to discuss at this point. However, there’s always a chance that a client may be unhappy with the direction that marketing transcreation is taking.
Quality assurance should be an ongoing process, particularly in the fields of translation and transcreation. However, assessing the quality of a transcreation project isn’t always simple. One possible method of quality assurance is to undertake back translation. Here, transcreated content is translated back into the source language. If the translation closely aligns with the original, take this as a positive sign. Using third-party editors is another option.
Now that the transcreation process is largely complete, it’s time to test the results. You can bring focus groups and surveys back into play at this point. A/B testing can also be used to determine the effectiveness of transcreated content. Should content need any refinements, now’s the time to undertake any last-minute localization work.
Now that the transcreation process has been completed and testing has yielded positive results, it’s time to seek final approval from the client. Clients will then decide when exactly to deploy the campaign in a new market.
It’s important to keep an eye on the performance of a marketing campaign. As well as providing assurances of effectiveness, the results can be useful for optimizing campaigns in the future.
In the case of marketing, where emotion and evocative messaging count, there’s no substitute for the human touch. Only a human linguist is capable of crafting compelling content that hits the right note with a target audience. Even if AI tools become more capable of generating such content, there’s still no guarantee that it will resonate with consumers in the way that authentic messaging can.
Successful marketing transcreation hinges on the right use of colloquial language. This often involves deploying humor with a keen understanding of cultural nuance. At the moment, this is beyond the capabilities of AI. What’s more, even the most advanced AI solutions can’t determine the best visuals to use in a local context when preparing a marketing campaign for new territories and audiences.
When it’s used to automate mundane tasks, AI can bring significant efficiency and productivity gains, However, human transcreators and translators working within the marketing sphere should have no fear that their jobs are at risk.
Connecting with new audiences while maintaining a consistent brand identity can be difficult, with many translation services falling short. What’s more, many untapped markets remain lucrative for good reason. Markets are heavily saturated with competitors, and it may be notoriously difficult to adapt content to the language of your target audience. Overcoming these obstacles can be a challenge, but they’re by no means a barrier to your global marketing ambitions.
With a transcreation services provider like BLEND, you have all the localization insights and tools you need to successfully expand into international markets. With thousands of linguists and transcreation experts providing content in 120 languages, everything from social media ads to physical marketing collateral can be adapted to ensure it resonates with local audiences.
Ready to get the ball rolling? Get in touch with the team today to see how BLEND can help you with marketing transcreation.