Beyond Translation in Marketing: Analyzing how transcreation differs from translation

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How do you know when you need transcreation instead of translation? Both are common language service options, but their application differs quite a bit. Unlocking success of your global marketing efforts requires a keen grasp of the distinctions between transcreation and translation.  

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 company will strive to retain the core sentiment of the original campaign and maintain consistent branding at every step. In this article, we will dive deeper into the nuances of transcreation, exploring its benefits and how it can significantly enhance the success of your global marketing efforts. 

So, what is transcreation? 

First, let’s understand what translation does. Translation focuses on conveying the meaning of the original text in a different language, adapting creative elements like sayings, rhymes, and cultural lexical items to fit the target language. It aims to maintain the integrity of the original content, while making it understandable in another linguistic context. For instance, when a Japanese electronics company, such as Sony, sells a camera in France, the original Japanese user manual is translated into French. This translation must accurately convey the technical specifications, usage instructions, and safety warnings, ensuring that French-speaking customers can use the product safely and effectively. The focus is on precision and clarity, ensuring that the translated text offers the same guidance as the original, without any creative reinterpretation. 

Transcreation, on the other hand, goes beyond mere translation to focus on the overall product, company or project at hand, making any necessary changes considering branding, SEO, cultural impact, company goals, etc. This approach may result in messaging that significantly diverges from the original text to better resonate with the target demographic. Transcreation involves recreating or completely recasting content, such as ad campaigns or video ads, to align with the cultural and emotional nuances of the target market. Even brand-specific imagery, advertising slogans, and even brand names may undergo reconsideration to align with the needs of a new market. It often requires collaboration with marketing or creative teams to ensure the final product effectively communicates the intended message within the specific cultural context.  

Transcreation holds a pivotal role in any global marketing strategy. Simply translating a slogan or localizing a saying from one language to another will fall short in delivering satisfactory results for overall marketing campaigns that require the communication of certain emotions and have a particular impact. In general, translations seldom achieve the desired effect. At best, they may result in uninspiring campaigns that lack an understanding of a new audience and its culture.  

One of the most successful instances of transcreation is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. Initially launched in Australia in 2011, the campaign replaced the iconic Coca-Cola logo on bottles with the most common first names in the country. The idea was to encourage people to find bottles with names that held personal significance to them or as gifts for friends and family, thereby creating a more personal connection with the brand. 

Coca-Cola’s Transcreation Strategy 

When Coca-Cola decided to take this campaign globally, it faced the challenge of adapting the concept to various languages, cultures, and social norms. Here’s how they approached the transcreation: 

Cultural Adaptation: Recognizing the diversity in naming conventions, Coca-Cola researched the most popular names in each country and included culturally relevant names on the bottles. In countries with strict naming conventions, they also included nicknames and terms of endearment. 

Language Considerations: The slogans and hashtags associated with the campaign were carefully adapted to maintain their colloquial charm and emotional appeal across different languages. This ensured that the campaign’s call to action was as compelling in Spanish, Mandarin, or Arabic as it was in English. 

Visual and Social Sensitivities: Understanding that certain names, symbols, or gestures may not translate well across cultures, Coca-Cola tailored its visual content to avoid cultural insensitivity. This included adjusting color schemes, imagery, and social media content to align with local preferences and taboos. 

Engagement Strategies: The campaign was localized to encourage participation through country-specific social media challenges, contests, and events, fostering a sense of community and personal connection with the brand. 

Exploring the Distinctions: Transcreation vs. Translation 

Understanding the nuances between transcreation and translation reveals key differences that play a pivotal role in global marketing. 

Translation focuses on/maintains meaning, Transcreation focuses on/maintains overall branding goals: While translation aims to faithfully preserve the original meaning of content, when it comes to advertising and marketing content, it often falls short in delivering material suitable for the intended audience. Transcreation takes a more adaptable approach, emphasizing cultural alignment over translation. The core message remains intact but is presented in a way that resonates better with the cultural norms of the target audience. 

Transcreation is a More Respectful Approach: Despite being perceived as time-consuming and expensive, transcreation is an investment that showcases greater respect for target markets. Companies opting for transcreation demonstrate consideration for the cultural norms and nuances of a new market, steering clear of potential offensive marketing misfires. This thoughtful localization benefits audiences, providing content tailored for their needs, while also elevating the credibility and trust consumers place in the brand. 

It Depends on the Content: For technical manuals and legal documentation, where precision is paramount, specialized translations are apt. However, when dealing with advertising and content marketing, standard translation often proves too restrictive. Native knowledge becomes as crucial as language proficiency, making transcreation the preferred choice for content that requires a creative touch. 

Transcreation Involves Additional Skills: Transcreation experts blur the lines between translators and copywriters. While content or marketing translation services may include copywriting, transcreation specialists seamlessly combine both roles. In addition to crafting content, they take on responsibilities such as copy editing, ensuring a holistic and creative approach to content adaptation. 

Adapting Content for Different Cultures Calls for Transcreation: Certain content formats undergo significant transformations when adapted for new markets. Transcreation is particularly prevalent in creative content like video games, graphic novels, and motion pictures. Colloquialisms and nuances that may not resonate well in different cultures are refined through transcreation, ensuring a seamless connection with diverse audiences. 

The role of marketing transcreation in global expansion  

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.   

A prime example of a brand utilizing transcreation is McDonald’s, which adjusted its North American slogan from “I’m lovin it” to “I just like it” in China. The word “love” in the Chinese language is taken seriously and is considered excessive particularly when related to consumer products. “I just like it” is a localized expression more in line with Chinese culture. In addition to slogans, McDonald’s also localized their menus to suit the tastes of the target market. A McDonald’s in the Philippines, for example, may offer the McRice burger, while a McDonald’s in India will offer a McPaneer Royale. Through such thoughtful transcreation, brands can engage more effectively with diverse global audiences, fostering a deeper connection and brand loyalty across different cultures. 


Exploring the Impact of AI on Marketing and Advertising 

The transformation brought about by AI in the marketing and advertising realm is undeniable. However, when it comes to crafting emotionally resonant messaging, the irreplaceable touch of human creativity remains unmatched. Despite the advancements in AI tools, the ability to create compelling content that truly connects with a target audience rests in the hands of human linguists. Even if AI becomes more adept at content generation, there’s no assurance it will ever strike the chord with consumers as authentically as human-crafted messaging can. 


Successful marketing transcreation hinges on the right use of colloquial language. This often involves deploying humor with a keen understanding of cultural nuances. Presently, this nuanced skill is beyond the reach of AI capabilities. Furthermore, even the most sophisticated AI solutions fall short when it comes to determining the most effective visuals for a local context in the preparation of marketing campaigns for new territories and diverse audiences. For instance, “When Facebook celebrated an earthquake” case! after a deadly earthquake happened in Indonesia back in 2018, many people used social media to talk about their status. Surprisingly, many were astonished by the fact that Facebook had added balloons and confetti to some of those posts. The cause of this misunderstanding was the usage of the Indonesian word “selamat”, that means “to survive”, “be safe” or “congratulations”. Facebook algorithm misinterpreted the context of the comments, thus adding festive animations of balloons and confetti. Afterwards, Facebook’s Spokesperson clarified the situation stating that the company “regrets that it appeared in this unfortunate context”. 

While AI proves valuable in automating mundane tasks, such as data analysis and repetitive processes, the realm of marketing transcreation and translation is one where human expertise remains indispensable. The unique ability of human transcreators and translators to navigate cultural intricacies, deploy humor effectively, and choose visuals that resonate locally ensures their continued relevance and contribution to the success of marketing endeavors. In essence, while AI enhances efficiency in certain aspects, the creativity and cultural finesse of human professionals in the marketing sphere remain irreplaceable. 

Overcoming global marketing obstacles with Bromberg & Associates 

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 company like Bromberg & Associates, you have all the localization insights and tools you need to successfully expand into international markets. With 4,500+ linguists and transcreation experts providing content in 200+ languages, everything from social media ads to physical marketing collateral can be adapted to ensure it resonates with local audiences.  

Ready to kick things off? Get in touch with the team today to see how Bromberg & Associates can help you with marketing transcreation.  





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