Transcreation FAQ: What you need to know about creative translation

Over the years, I’ve helped many clients with transcreation needs. Sometimes they’re not quite sure what the difference is between transcreation and translation. For that reason I decided to bring to the blogosphere my “need to know” overview on transcreation services.

Let’s dive into a few commonly asked questions about transcreation and my responses.

What is transcreation?

It’s not just translation or localization. It’s not just copywriting either. It’s creative stylizing of the original copy with local flavor. While translation seeks to reproduce the wording and even intent of a message, transcreation goes a step beyond. Copywriter linguists cultivate the intended emotional response by re-creating the message in a way that resonates strongly with locals.

Content that’s suitable for transcreation includes taglines, logos, product and sales pages, campaigns and any other content that drives an action or evokes a strong response.

What are some examples of successful transcreation?

When it comes to its transcreation efforts, Coca-Cola really hits the spot. The company tailors its messaging for each of its target audiences. For instance, in Japan you’ll find singing refrigerators touting the brand at live events—but the company doesn’t take the same approach in the U.S. since it wouldn’t produce the same positive effect.

Another tasty example is Nestlé’s global tagline: Good food. Good life. It’s simple, clear and straightforward enough to be translated easily into other languages.

What are some common pitfalls to avoid?

If you’re developing a tagline or some form of creative message, don’t choose words or phrases that aren’t likely to make sense to your target audience. That includes playful idioms. Every culture has its own sayings that don’t make much sense to outsiders.

For instance, the Irish phrase “I did it all arseways,” which means “I made a complete mess of it,” would not be easily understood across cultures. Neither would the saying “How’s she cuttin’?” (“How’s she doing?”).

It’s also very important to avoid offending your target audiences. Do a gut-check on your graphics to make sure they don’t fly in the face of your audience’s beliefs.

Can translation memory be used in transcreation projects?

Since different terms and sentences are used in transcreated content—wholly re-created from the original version—translation memory from regular translation projects can’t be used. However, we will keep a separate translation memory for your transcreation projects.

How fast can transcreation be turned around?

While linguists can translate up to 2,000 words a day, transcreation is a much more exacting and intensive process. Copywriter linguists can generally churn out about 180 words per hour.

What’s important to keep in mind about transcreation?

Expect a fair amount of subjectivity. The first attempt might hit the right tone—but then again, it might not. As a result, we may need to give it another go if the image, video, marketing copy, etc. doesn’t look or sound quite right.

For the utmost in efficiency, I like to recommend to clients that we maintain direct communication with the in-country reviewer to ensure that tone and style are on the mark.

How do we measure success?

Here are just a few ways we can gauge the effectiveness of transcreation efforts:

  • Improved satisfaction from users
  • Better website analytics and improved reaction from users (i.e., positive customer feedback)
    • Increased overall page engagement
    • Better click-through rate on try/buy buttons
  • Fewer review cycles
    • Far less change requests late in the process

Create global emotional connection through transcreation

As Content Rules CEO Val Swisher says in a recent issue of Chief Content Officer, “the kind of relationship we want to have with our customers is one they prefer to have with us.” I would add that emotional resonance is key to achieving that positive interaction. Transcreation is a great tool that facilitates this cross-cultural connection.