What is Transcreation and How it Compares to Translation

What is transcreation? A complete guide

Global marketers and businesses use many different tools and processes to enter new markets. However, the goal is always the same — to connect with international audiences in meaningful ways, build brand awareness across different countries, and increase sales.

The most effective method for creating that connection is to use the native language of any given market while also considering its cultural specificities. Sometimes, companies fail to do so.

For instance, a company from Iran called Paxam didn’t localize the name of their laundry soap which led to an unfortunate launch of a product named “Barf” in the English-speaking market; not quite something you would reach out to and take from the shelf in the supermarket.

Content needs to be adapted culturally and that’s where transcreation steps into the picture. But, there are a lot of questions around what transcreation is and how it can help you in localization efforts. Let’s address those first.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a mix of translation, creation, and copywriting. You take an existing piece of writing or marketing collateral and transform it into something that conveys the same message, but has cultural references more relevant to the target market for which it was translated. Essentially – it’s a new, transcreated piece of content.

With transcreation, there is less of a focus on recreating a piece in exactly the same way (letter by letter and word by word) for a different language. The focus is more on the intent of the piece and how that message will be received in a different market as part of a marketing campaign.

It helps to think of it like creative translation. It’s about inspiring users to take action, evoking the emotions that are intended with a particular marketing campaign, while maintaining a strong brand messaging.

Transcreation requires a very close feedback loop and communication between the transcreator and the product owner or marketing team, because the transcreation requires understanding the brand guidelines and the goals of a particular campaign.

Examples of transcreation

A great example of transcreation isn’t in the marketing world, but from the world of film. Often, when a movie does well in a foreign market, American producers want to create a version that is more relevant to American audiences, as well as audiences in other English-speaking countries.

The horror movie The Ring is a perfect example of this. Based on a Japanese movie called Ringu, the movie is about a videotape that is said to cause the death of anyone who watches it.

At their core, the premise of the movie (the deadly video) is the same, as are a lot of plot points. But the details of the film, names and settings, change to be more relevant to North American audiences.

They swap out Japan for the Pacific Northwest as the setting for the movie, as an example. Despite these changes, the intent is the same: to terrify you. The emotional impact of the film doesn’t change.

Achieving this cultural relevance, without losing the desired emotional outcome, is the goal of transcreation. It mirrors the intent of the source text but is not simply the same text translated into a different language.

You will find many examples of global brands using transcreation to effectively connect with their target audience. Think of McDonald’s with their menu to cater to local tastes, Nike adopting their ad campaigns for Asian or Arabic markets, or Ikea transcreating their catalogues–all to better resonate with their customers in a specific market.


Transcreation vs. translation: what is the difference?

Check the table below to see the main differences between transcreation and translation.

Translation Transcreation
Translation is the rendering of meaning from one language into another language. It can involve some degree of creativity, but the translator is still using the source text as the basis (faithful to source), applying the basic adaption required to make sure the text is correct and fluent.

People who offer translation services are usually linguists or subject matter experts with excellent language skills.

Translation content can be as diverse as product content, knowledge base articles, technical documentation, user reviews, marketing materials, support messages and much, much more.

Transcreation is a much more creative process. A high-end creativity is required to perform such tasks. People who provide transcreation services are typically a mix of copywriters, UX writers and linguists. They have the skills to create a new copy based on a creative brief rather than just making a creative variant of translation.

You would expect the transcreated copy to have a strong call to action, super natural flow and a very local feel.

Transcreation often starts with a creative brief, similar to what you’d provide a content writer or copywriter in your native language. Normally you would also share your campaign goals with the transcreator, so the copy can be adapted with that in mind.

You would typically transcreate web/digital banners, slogans, advertisements, signage.

Transcreation vs localization: what’s the difference?

Transcreation is a creative process that involves recreating content in a new language while maintaining its original meaning, style, and tone where as Localization is a more technical process that involves adapting content to suit the linguistic and cultural preferences of a specific region or market, for example, using the correct date formats for that region.

The importance of a transcreation brief

The transcreation brief would contain the topic idea, guidelines, relevant information about the target audience, links to existing websites, any related brand campaign assets as well as examples of previous copies, if translations have been done before. From there, the transcreator takes this information and creates a new copy around it.

This allows transcreators the freedom they need to do their best work. What ends up happening as a result of this freedom is that you get slightly different messaging for each market that helps form an authentic connection to your target audience (like in the movie example above).

In addition, the writers who are working from the transcreation brief can help you nail down the local SEO — discovering the relevant keywords and topics for each locale and building the content around their findings for global audiences. As an added bonus, because transcreation involves creating something new, you avoid getting dinged by Google for duplicate content.

When to choose transcreation

So, when should you resort to transcreation?

Translation is helpful when you’re translating less creative content, that requires precise and accurate rendering of the source. It could be knowledgebase articles, your legal documentation, product content, etc.

However, if you’re looking to communicate anything more creative like web banners, slogans, email campaigns or that has a big business impact (like a landing page or social media graphics), consider using transcreation.

Any business with a global marketing strategy uses the transcreation technique to:

  • Connect with the target audience in a more meaningful way
  • Increase engagement, conversion rates, sales, and ROI
  • Demonstrate a strong market knowledge
  • Capture market-specific intent

Transcreation allows you to make a culturally-relevant emotional connection that triggers a specific action, like visiting your website, signing up for a trial, booking a demo, purchasing your product.

Translation, on the other hand, focuses more on the action the messaging is supposed to elicit. There is more emphasis on a specific desired outcome based on textual content rather than layout experience or visuals.

Headlines, taglines, in-app dialogue, alerts, LinkedIn posts, slogans are all perfect candidates for transcreation because, you should consider that the process of crafting a loaded, multiple layer copy in the target languages would require at least as much effort you have invested in creating your original copy.

Transcreation is often most frequently in the following industries:

  • Advertising and marketing
  • Consumer goods
  • Video games
  • Literature
  • Film and television


Final thoughts about transcreation

Entering a new foreign market with the same tone of voice that you’re using locally doesn’t always work because different cultures have different expectations of how a brand is supposed to communicate with them.

For example, in the US, using a direct tone is normal, while in Japan, a softer tone is more common. The more direct approach that is common in the US can come across as rude in Japan.

Transcreation is there to help you get the tone of voice right and avoid the risk of turning away a large chunk of the new market.

Want to learn more about how Lokalise can assist in your transcreation workflow? Book a Demo with our team, or Sign Up for a Free Trial today!

Talk to one of our localization specialists

Book a call with one of our localization specialists and get a tailored consultation that can guide you on your localization path.

Get a demo

Related posts

Learn something new every two weeks

Get the latest in localization delivered straight to your inbox.

Related articles
Localization made easy. Why wait?