Transcreation: Where Translation and Copywriting Meet

One of the most relevant areas of both content production and translation is transcreation. Transcreation is the process of adapting a message to its appropriate audience. This means, where translation can’t fill in the cultural gaps, transcreation does.

Chiefly used in marketing and advertising, transcreation is essential in the global economy where advertising campaigns must keep their worldwide appeal for the sake of globalisation but must remain sensitive to cultural differences.

Adapting content is, therefore, necessary. Humour, names, colours, even gestures or punctuation can vary greatly between countries and what is deemed a genius marketing campaign in one country can be seen as a disaster in another because of a single line that wasn’t appropriately transcreated. Transcreation involves looking at more than just the text, it looks at slogans, product names and visuals too.

When McDonald’s had to translate their slogan “I’m Lovin’ It” in Chinese, they opted to transcreate it to “I Just Like It”, knowing that the Chinese find using the word love in public offensive. At the same time, McDonald’s also opted not to translate its slogan in countries where the English language was commonly known by their target audience, sharpening their global message.

Transcreation is particularly important for global brands which seek representation worldwide. It shows the difference between a brand that truly knows its market and one that is simply coasting the seas of globalisation. Translators play a crucial part in advertising, branding and marketing teams in the sense that their skills go beyond linguistics and fall into cultural consultancy. Translators are not only language specialists but also masters of both target and source languages’ cultures. They are well-versed in the impact of language within a certain customs and cultural setting. Moreover, translators keep in touch with the latest social trends and happenings in their languages’ countries and can a advise on sensitive issues that can affect the timing of a campaign.

This is not to say that every translator will be a good transcreator. Transcreation requires both translation and creative copywriting skills. Where a (literal) translation doesn’t work, creativity may be needed. This is why it’s important to pick a translator with creative skills for your transcreation work and why it’s essential that translators keep honing their skills in copywriting too.