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Transcreation: a strategy for a global brand marketing

You’ve heard about transcreation but only have a vague idea about it. 

You wonder about: how does transcreation differ from translation; who is capable of carrying it out; and why is this not called localization?


Article by Ryan J. Lebro, Translator, Powerling


This is the adaptation of content (print, online, video, etc.) to a specific language and culture for local consumption. This process is continuous and is used for new products and in places such as e-commerce websites. Examples of localized products are film DVDs or music CDs. A film DVD may have different names in the US market and in Canada, and still another one for the French-speaking markets within Canada. Also, elements like different language subtitles or dubbing may be added to the DVD to allow it to be successful. Depending on the title of the film, the original language title may be adapted or translated to reflect the meaning of the film’s title for the target market.


This is used when you want the text to resonate in the target language and culture as a non-translation. The rules for marketing translation are very different than for translation of other types of content. For medical, legal, and technical texts, a translator strives to be as faithful to the original source text in the translation. Therefore, the translator seeks to mimic the tone, style, and structure of the original text. A translator may perform elements of localization (a text for the US market versus one for the UK market will use different vocabulary, punctuation, and spelling for example). A successful marketing translator needs to be finely attuned to the culture of the target language. So, for example, idioms that may not translated “literally” from the source culture to the target market need to be adapted when performing the translation. However, while marketing translation involves elements of re-writing, it is not copywriting nor is it, strictly speaking, transcreation.


Transcreation is a creative process that is in the domain of advertising and marketing more than in the domain of translation and language services. Transcreation is best defined as complete adaptation of a product or advertising/brand message for a target market. A successful transcreation is often part of a larger advertising campaign or global brand messaging. People who perform transcreation have some of the skills that translators have, but they also possess honed skills in the domains of advertising, marketing and copywriting. Successful transcreation takes place when the people doing the work are part of the advertising or branding campaign from step one—from the conception to the execution. They must understand the goals and methods used by the company in these creative campaigns.

The second step of transcreation is the creation of an equivalent but not always identical campaign in the target language and culture. For example, a campaign to promote a compact car as a space saver works in Paris, but doesn’t work as well in many US markets. It would be better to focus on the other features, such as environmental and fuel-saving benefits. The copy written for the US campaign would borrow some themes from the French campaign but wouldn’t be a translation; it would be creative copy that took into account the specificities of the US automobile market and the differences in the ways that US and French advertisers communicate. Not just the advertising copy, but the songs and images would also be created anew for the US market (from a base of the brand’s core values and identity).


Based on your needs, you may require marketing translation, localization or transcreation. Regardless of what you are seeking to do, it is important to remember that you must start from the assumption that all marketing and advertising content must be local. Even within the same country, you may need to adapt the message for different regions based on linguistic differences, customs and even the climate. You wouldn’t want to advertise an automobile as perfect for the beach if your target customers were in the French Alps! Working with Powerling as your language experts is a good start. We can become part of your team to help you decide how to prepare your marketing, e-commerce, advertising and branding strategies. You can never have too much advice and never have too much local advice. Your experts should be the people in the counties and regions where you are marketing your product. If it doesn’t seem like a compelling product to “the locals,” it will simply not sell. These are the key people that you want to involve from step one.

Reference: “Reaching New Markets through Transcreation,” by Rebecca Ray and Nataly Kelly, Common Sense Advisory, Inc., Lowell, Massachusetts, 2010.

NEWS : Powerling has recently acquired WCS group.

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