Many marketers have learned the value of content transcreation through trial and error. Some have incorrectly assumed the translation process alone would capture their clever marketing message, which worked well in the original target market, but did not work as well in other markets for various reasons. Hopefully not for culturally embarrassing reasons.
What is Transcreation?
Simply put, it is adapting content for one language/culture to another so that the intent of the message is maintained. In a literal translation, the message’s meaning may be lost. Transcreation is most commonly used in marketing and advertising when the content has a culturally specific meaning, but where a translation of that content would lose the colorful, creative intent of the source language or locale’s message.
This is often considered between languages, but it is more necessary between local cultures.
When it is Needed
Transcreation is most useful in marketing and advertising, which often include culturally creative use of a language. A brand’s tagline, social media posts, holiday promotions and global advertisement campaigns for new or existing products are all examples of content that requires transcreation.
If your business is in a highly regulated industry, such as the pharmaceutical, life science or financial industries, your source content is not likely to be too colorful to avoid any possible misleading claims. In these cases, your translated content should also remain direct in context and would likely not be a candidate for using transcreation.
When Transcreation May Have Helped
The internet is littered with such examples. Inc. Magazine has an article with a good sampling of instances when it would have been best to use transcreation. Some of my favorites are:
- Coca-Cola’s brand name, when first marketed in China, was sometimes translated as “Bite The Wax Tadpole.”
- Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which means “rush to die.”
- Pepsi’s slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was debuted in China as “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave.”
To see the entire list, please see: 20 Epic Fails in Global Branding.
For each of your marketing related projects consider if transcreation may be useful for maintaining your messages’ meaning in the target market and if so, discuss with your localization vendor how they can support this service for you.