In a global economy, word-for-word translations of an ad campaign are often insufficient. Lacking the particular nuances of the target location, they may fail to convey the full meaning and purpose of the message. Worse, the messages they send could stray far from any original objective. Transcreation is a creative translation technique combining localization and creativity.

Why Transcreation Makes So Much Sense

Some call it creative translation, and its practice can be essential to the proper adaptation of a message or brand name to a target audience. By combining straight translation with new and culturally appropriate language, it tailors a message to the intended demographic while maintaining the tone and intent of the original message.

When Straight Translation Just Won’t Cut It

In certain instances, a direct translation may lead to some unexpected results. For example:

  • McDonald’s familiar slogan, “I’m lovin’ it,” failed to fly in China, a country whose natives imbue the word “love” with far deeper significance. McDonald’s ads in China today exclaim that its customers “just like it.”
  • When the Blue Water product line expanded into Russia, its name directly translated to the local slang for “vomit.” To correct the problem, the company changed its name to Water Blue.
  • An ad in which a husband entered the bathroom while his wife was showering raised no eyebrows in the West. The Japanese, however, considered such an invasion of privacy to be in very poor taste. The campaign had to be revised for the Japanese market.

Transcreating the Visuals

When it comes to race and gender, the models in Western ad campaigns regularly run the gamut. Unfortunately, many such ads often fail to resonate in a country that lacks a similar diversity of population. Others might entirely neglect to represent a race or ethnic type that happens to predominate in the target country.

The featured colors of any ad campaign must also be appropriate to the target location. For example, while the Western world associates white with weddings, the color spells “funeral” to residents of Asian countries.

Moving Your Message Around the World

The proper combination of creativity with cultural and linguistic sensitivity will ensure the proper movement of your brand. Any message that requires conversion into another language really deserves a transcreation.

Who Should Best Perform It?

While a bilingual individual can generate a straight translation, those best suited to performing transcreation ideally will be native speakers of the language. They must also be thoroughly familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the country to which the message will point. A proper understanding of its recipients will prevent the intent from changing into something meaningless or even obscene.