I recently had a discussion with a friend about translation in marketing situations and the troubles that can arise. During the course of the conversation, the topic of transcreation came up and reminded me of something I wrote a year or two ago. I think transcreation is one of the most important concepts in the translation fields and one that would be useful for businesses and marketing departments to understand and familiarize themselves with.

Transcreation: “An adaptation of a creative work into another language or culture.” In business terminology, you could call it marketing localization. While translation is a part of transcreation, transcreation is more than just translating words. It’s the act of totally reworking a concept to have the same effect on the target audience as it had on the source audience.

For example – say you have an ad for a new car. The desired effect? Increased sales of the car. You spend time researching your audience – their character, what they value, their buying habits, etc. Then you develop a video ad that appeals to those characteristics. The result? More people buy the car after viewing the ad.

Now, say you want to expand your market to another country. Does it seem reasonable that you could simply translate the text of the ad and have the same sales results among your new target audience? Perhaps. However, anyone who has traveled at all will note that while people are people all over the world, different regions value different things. Perhaps your new target audience values style over price. Perhaps they are more safety-conscious and care less about the “features” of the vehicle. Perhaps certain colors or model names have negative connotations in their culture that are not an issue among your original audience.

Enter transcreation. A good transcreation team will put together an ad that appeals as directly to the new target audience as the original ad did to the original audience. It may use elements of the original – or it may not. The unifying characteristic will simply be that the goal of the ad will be the same: increase car sales among the target audience. How that goal is achieved can vary drastically.

If you or your business is considering expanding your market into another region or country, make sure to consider transcreation as you plan your timeline for creation and launch of advertising campaigns. Plan to do some market research about your target audience. Have your marketing team develop a new or adapted ad that appeals to the values of the new group. Then have the ad approved, translated, and reviewed by a professional translator who has native-like familiarity with the target culture. These steps will help you avoid marketing blunders and save money in the long run – not to mention the likelihood of higher sales and better success in the new target market.


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