Posted on: 07 02 2024

What’s transcreation and why do you need it?

Written by
Laura Tufano
Reading time: 4 mins
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If you’re looking to take your company global or to create a global marketing strategy, you have most likely already considered that you need at least some of your content to be available in multiple languages. Maybe you have even already had part of your marketing materials translated, or you simply trialled running them through a translator-bot. But have you thought about having it tailor-made for each cultural or lingual target group? This is where localisation and transcreation come into play. We’ve put together some thought-starters and our experiences in cultural content adaptation to help you orient yourself in this process.

Transcreation is the process of recreating your content for a new market in a different language, according to your original creative brief. It takes into consideration cultural nuances and is adapted to your country-specific or global goals and can happen simultaneously while you’re having copy written for your primary market. Compared to other adaptation methods, such as translation and localisation, it offers the most creative freedom to carefully create your brand messaging for a cross-cultural communication towards a new, specific target audience.

Transcreation is done by a copywriter with multiple language skills and in-depth knowledge of the local culture, rather than a translator. This gives you the whole creative toolset you have when you work with an agency for the English-speaking world, without making you do the whole creative ideation process again. In simple terms: you tell the transcreator the tone of voice, what you are going for and what your creative needs are, and they do the copywriter magic.

And this ‘magic’ is significantly better than relying on bots for translation needs. While quick and cheap, at best, bots produce mixed results; at worse, they can cause significant damage to your brand through mistakes, incoherent language and the unintended consequences of non-human translation.

Beyond automated apps, there are two other mechanisms of content adaption for different language markets: translation and localisation. Translation is the 1-1 transfer from a written piece into another language. It considers grammar, but does not account for cultural nuance, double meaning or anything of that sort. It’s a process that frankly only makes sense for manuals, scientific papers and the like. Localisation gets you further. As the name indicates, it localises content into a specific language and/or culture and includes considerations of the local market.

However, it localisation sticks to the original content as much as possible. For example, the German phrase ‘Darf’s ein bisschen mehr sein? – commonly used in food retail - literally translates to ‘Is it allowed to be a bit more?’, which makes little sense. Localised, it becomes ‘can it be a bit more?’. But with transcreation it gets to its true meaning – are you happy to have a little more than you asked for – and becomes ‘Mind if I round it up?’.

Another example I encountered recently is the somewhat unfortunate copy localisation efforts of a supermarket chain in Rome, that boldly urged me to “smell the sausage”. The original Italian version translated to something along the lines of “feel what a smell of sausage”. The company made the sensible call to opt for localisation rather than translation, which at least made the copy coherent. But this example demonstrates why localisation can sometimes not be enough. Italian uses “feel” for various sense-related experiences, and what they were trying to communicate is that you can experience the wonderful scents of an Italian deli inside their premises.

So how does transcreation work in practise if you’re a brand with a multi-market footprint? Reassuringly, you don’t have to come up with a specialised idea for every market that you want to target. The whole point of transcreation is to have someone on board who can make that transfer for you. At Luxid, we will work with you, and with whatever you have. Whether you have 50 pieces of short copy that is all puns that only work in English, or an outline of a brief that you want to use for multiple markets, solving this challenge for you is literally our job.

Caring for cultural nuance through using a transcreator effectively enables you to access creative work from many perspectives for many perspectives and is the opposite of creatively limiting. And you don’t have to make a hard decision on whether content should be localised or transcreated, you can tailor your order exactly to your needs. For example, you can order a product description to be localised, but the accompanying asset copy to be transcreated.

You can also just send over the content they will take up the task from there. They will assess the copy’s adaptation needs and identify where cultural/linguistic challenges may arise. They will then work with you, asking questions, getting approval on changes, and will guide you through the process to fresh local-polished copy, together with explanatory notes.

To summarise, transcreation offers you the whole creative toolset of copywriting, while ensuring that you have a holistic approach to your global brand messaging. A transcreator can not only protect your brand, but also completely open up new markets for you. Localisation can be a good fit for some of your international marketing needs and complements transcreation really well.

At Luxid, you find a team of creatives with multiple media-related skills and a variety of language skills. When you work with us, you gain access to our cross-cultural expertise and resources to cater to your specific goals.

Talk to us about all of your multi-market content needs – including transcreation and localisation.

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