What is transcreation?

What is transcreation, how does it work and when should you opt for transcreation rather than translation to localise your content? Here’s a quick guide for you.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation (also called creative translation) is a process whereby we take your creative copy and turn it into something equally as emotive and engaging in the target language.

Illustration of two circles for translation and copywriting with an overlapping area featuring showing a lightbulb

We tend to think of transcreation as that magical sweet spot where translation and copywriting overlap. While translation focuses on bringing across your message in a way that’s eloquent, relevant and reflects your brand voice, transcreation goes one step further and focuses on the intended outcome of your message. Yet unlike copywriting, we don’t create a completely new message for a new market, rather we take your existing message and adapt it so that it resonates in a new market.

Let’s say we’re transcreating a web banner for a German audience. We don’t just think about how we can translate the banner so it sounds beautiful and snappy in German, but we also think about what you are trying to achieve with the banner. What emotion or response you want to invoke in the German audience; and why? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive sign-ups? Encourage the audience to take a specific action? We want to make sure that your transcreated web banner is just as effective in the German market.

How does transcreation work?

Working with a transcreation agency is much like working with a design agency or other creative agency. It all starts with a good brief. The better we understand your brand and the purpose of your content, the more successful and effective the transcreated content will be.

We start every transcreation project by first asking broad questions to get to know your brand:

  • What’s important to you?
  • What are you trying to communicate?
  • What are your values as a brand?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What is your overarching brand message?
  • How would you like to come across to your international audience?

Once we’ve got to know your brand, we ask questions specifically about the asset we are going to transcreate:

  • What’s the purpose of the asset? What are you trying to achieve with this specific asset?
  • What’s the desired action the reader should take after engaging with the asset?
  • How do you measure if the asset has been successful?

The reason for asking all these questions is to make sure that your transcreated content is impactful and delivers the desired results. We have your best interests at heart and will tell you honestly if we feel your creative campaign or concept wouldn’t work in a specific target market.

When we’ve got all the details we need, we get to work and brief our creative team. For us, transcreation is a collaborative process between two or more linguists who brainstorm ideas and concepts together. Our team gets together in a workshop to research your brand and products, develop ideas and put together a list of possible options and variations.

When we deliver the results of our workshop, we provide literal ‘back translations’ into the original language in case you (or your colleagues) don’t speak the target language, and we share our rationale behind each suggestion.

When should you use transcreation?

Transcreation is the best option for creative copy where a direct translation would not sound as catchy, would not create the right level of impact or where it may not be culturally relevant.

We generally suggest transcreation for high-impact, creative, short-form copy such as:

  • Headlines
  • Slogans
  • Tag lines
  • Catchphrases
  • Ad copy
  • Short product descriptions
  • Web and app banners

Why should you use transcreation?

Not every market is the same. A different language means a different culture, different attitudes, user behaviours and expectations. What’s hot in the UK market might just be lukewarm in another market. It may be irrelevant or, worst case scenario, offensive.

Transcreation is an investment in your high-value creative copy to ensure that your campaign stays on point and delivers the same results in other countries with different cultures and different frames of reference.

If you’d like to delve a little deeper into this topic, have a look at our article about the difference between translation and transcreation.