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A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Transcreation: All You Need to Know

12 April 2023

A Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Transcreation: All You Need to Know

What is Transcreation?

Transcreation is a process where the marketer translates the text first, then recreates or adapts it according to the cultural and linguistic standards of the target audience for that country. Translation alone translates content from one language into another. This can significantly reduce the impact on the target population and the success of the marketing campaign.

For instance, in carrying out a project, the first step is translation and the second step is a review. During this step, the reviewer will check the following language items:

  • Punctuation/spelling

  • Style/grammar/syntax

  • Telephone numbers/technical numbers

  • Company-specific information/copyright and trademarks

  • Accuracy

  • Hyphenation/punctuation/quotation marks

  • Terminology

  • Format/functionality

  • Special characters

  • Date and time format/measurements/numbers

That’s for translation. It ends at the level of language and all it entails. Transcreation, on the other hand, goes beyond that. It covers items like:

  • User target group

  • Tone of voice

  • Bias-free language

  • Meaning

  • Style

  • SEO keywords

  • Images used

Despite that they are both fundamentally translations, they are quite different. When undertaking a basic translation, the translator will remain faithful to the word choice, structure, spelling, style, and tone of the original text and the reviewer will ensure the accuracy of the source text. With transcreation, the translator uses their understanding of the target audience and adapts these elements in line with their expectations and needs.

Importance of Marketing Transcreation

Some time ago, global marketing depended on the idea that English was a ‘global language of business.’ This created the assumption that people from other countries had to learn English in order to do business with the rest of the world. And it was true to some degree. However, change comes, and – the world has changed significantly, driven by widespread global communication via the Internet and the rise of new major economies like that of China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and other regions not characterized by one language of business.

Now, it is widely understood that failure to create content for the native languages and cultures of target markets will mean failure to penetrate the market despite all marketing efforts. This can mean that revered aspects of business like brand standards may require significant changes when they cross borders. Let’s take a basic examination of a website like that of Starbucks, for example. Their US website vs. their Japanese website shows a completely different experience including graphic design, color palette, and copywriting. It is an extreme but not uncommon example of transcreation.

Transcreation helps your company resonate well with the new community. It is worth considering transcreation whenever your content is about more than just providing information. You have an audience that you want to relate with. If the cultural background is important for conveying your message, then transcreation might be the right choice to make. It brings your product or service home to your audience.

5 Types of Content to be Transcreated

Transcreation requires creativity. You may wonder what types of content require transcreation or what types of copy require creativity. It’s all about understanding the intent behind the original content and adapting it to evoke the same emotions or actions in the target market. So what kind of content should be transcreated?

1. Marketing Content

Emails, newsletters, billboards, and social media campaigns are written to connect with consumers – which is why they fall under the scope of transcreation. 

The time, energy, and creativity poured into marketing and branding should be respected when entering new markets in other countries. And remember that your customers will have different interests and celebrate different events throughout the year depending on the market. For example, fourth of July sales only make sense in the US! Out of the US, you may have to check out the country’s sales days and adapt to them.

2. Slogans and Taglines

You need just a phrase to say who you are and what you do. Your brand, product, or service deserves a very strong message – the slogan should encompass everything it stands for. While your slogan might be very good in your country, it will not be as good in another country. This may be because the rhyme, pun, and image of the brand or the target group are different in foreign markets. 

Take for example the German brand, BMW. Its original slogan Freude am Fahren (literally, the joy of driving) was translated directly for some European countries (Italy: Piacere di guidare, Portugal: Pelo prazer de conduzir), but for the US market, they came up with a completely different slogan: The Ultimate Driving Machine. 

That’s transcreation at work. With this, BMW aimed to distinguish itself from other American cars and to target young men looking for more of a top driving experience.

3. Product Names

Your product name might be good only when you are in your country of origin. When going global, you may have to analyze your product names. You may have to come up with something new if the name already exists or if it has a totally different meaning. 

For example, the new Heinz condiment combining mayo and ketchup is called Mayochup. When you think of it, it is logical and straightforward. Well, it is until you discover that it means s**t-face in Cree, a language spoken in the province of Ontario, Canada, where the product is also sold. That’s a big mistake that the transcreation of product names can fix before the product enters the market.

4. Ads and Commercials

You often don’t have all day and all space to advertise your product or service. When writing ads and commercials, you have to consider the available space on advertising billboards and the time limitation on TV spots. Ads and commercials often contain cultural references which prevent them from being transferred from one target audience to another. 

Take, for example, a few years ago, McDonald’s franchise in France chose to distort a famous expression to advertise its new late-night hours. The French expression La nuit porte conseil (the French equivalent of sleep on it; literally, night is a good adviser) became La frite porte conseil (French fry is a good adviser). It’s a pun that would not have made sense in English.

5. Digital Apps

Digital apps usually have minimalistic user borders and lack of space forces you to be concise. Moreover, buttons, commands, and navigation need to be decoded in context – like the German word Anmelden can mean register, login, and subscribe. A huge difference in an app! 

The UI text should be as effective in the translation as the original, too. For example, CTAs such as Click here need to be translated more precisely for certain markets, e.g. 料金についてはこちら (Japanese: Go here for pricing). 

Also, keep in mind that apps need to be found in the app stores, so keywords should be adapted to user behaviors in local markets. Transcreating your app will make it easily found by your consumers and it maximizes their engagement by ensuring them a seamless experience.


The main mission of transcreation is to respect the creativity and thought that went into the original. It involves the amount of time, research, and effort that lies behind every campaign, site, product, or service. 

Why wouldn’t you take this marketing transcreation approach to go international after having seen the benefits? Now, people do not have the time to learn the English language before going into business. They just want what they want and you will be left behind if you don’t follow the trend.

Over to you!

Are you implementing marketing transcreation in your overall marketing strategy? Share with us in the comments below how you’re doing it.

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