Transcreation – What’s Behind The Label?

Transcreation - new service or just another label?

Photo by Matt Briney @Unsplash

Buzzwords. Most industries are full of them and the translation industry is no exception. What’s the latest buzzword making the rounds? Transcreation. What exactly does this new word mean, you ask?

Wikipedia tells us the following:

Transcreation is a synthesis of the words ‘translation’ and ‘creation’ and is used chiefly by advertising and marketing professionals to refer to the process of adapting a message to the needs of a specific geographic market, target or customer group, or market segment.”

You might be thinking: “It’s simply a new word for marketing translation. That’s something we’ve been doing for over 20 years. Why all the fuss?”

I’ve heard objections like this more than a few times. But, is it really so clear cut, or do we actually need to offer a unique service for transcreation? Let’s look at the different concepts more closely:

Translation, localization, transcreation: Who is who?

When it comes to translation, things are still relatively straightforward. Translation refers to the transfer of content from one language to another. It stays as true to the word as possible and also takes context into consideration.

Localization, which originated in the software development field, goes a step further. It includes the adaptation of software interfaces, operating elements and/or websites to the target market. Dates, addresses, units of measurement, and other aspects, are adjusted to conform to local norms, standards and guidelines.

As the name implies, marketing translation has to do with the translation of marketing materials. Here too, adaptation to the target market is important. Idioms, metaphors and images are adapted to cultural and linguistic norms of the target country or region. One could also think of it as localization for marketing texts. Marketing translation, however, does not include changes to the source text.

This is where transcreation comes in. Transcreation goes beyond mere idiomatic adaptation and takes the totality of a translation project into account. It might end up redesigning the entire concept if deemed necessary. Transcreation, for instance, would not just rearrange sentence order in a text, but rethink the logic of the entire sentence structure, perhaps allowing marginal aspects to come to the fore. Transcreation might adapt individual pictograms and also redo the whole color scheme.

Why would customers elect to change their source material in this way, you ask? After all, they pay huge sums of money to marketing agencies and advertising copywriters to develop complete campaigns for various marketing channels. Well, the answer is quite simple: Cultural difference can render a campaign ineffective in certain markets. The campaign might not deliver the same message that was conceived for the original target market. It might fail to elicit the same emotions. It might not accurately reflect the brand image. In short: It simply doesn’t work in the target market.

New concept, new requirements

This is exactly what transcreation is there to do. It is about transferring a concept, an idea, a feeling – not just a text. Transcreation is thus a very complex and creative task. Transcreators must embody both a translator and a copywriter.

Like translators, transcreators need to have outstanding language skills in both the source and target languages, as well as a professional marketing background. Since transcreators also serve as copyeditors in the target language, they need to intimately understand a campaign’s goals and its target group. Just like the copyeditors or agencies who created the original campaign, transcreators need to be briefed accordingly. The client is in the best position to provide essential information about a campaign’s goals and target group, which is key to ensuring a successful transcreation.

Transcreation or Translation? That is the Question

As we have seen, translation and transcreation are closely related, and even overlap in certain areas. Nevertheless, it makes sense to distinguish between them. As previously mentioned, each requires different skills and qualifications. Also, the amount of effort required is estimated differently. Translation costs can be calculated quite easily with the help of word count and translation memories. This is not the case for transcreation. Transcreation costs need to be estimated on the basis of a project briefing. As the customer, you should make your project requirements as precise as possible to ensure that you get exactly what you want. If you have any doubts, get in touch with a translation service provider for help determining the right service.

Have questions about translation, localization and transcreation? Get in touch with us today! Our experts would be glad to advise you.



Katrin Marheinecke works as a Business Process & Quality Manager at text&form in Berlin. Her versatile insights in the translation process make her the perfect resource to analyze translation workflows from every angle. Since attaining certification as a Quality Representative in 2012, Marheinecke is more dedicated than ever to the task of identifying areas for improvement in the quality assurance process.