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How to approach marketing transcreation

How to approach marketing transcreation
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If you’ve decided to push your brand into foreign markets, you’re going to need to think about how the difference in cultures across the globe will impact your marketing campaign.


The creative messages and concepts which are successful in your own culture may not fit well in markets overseas. If translated incorrectly, they could have a damaging effect on your brand.


Therefore, you need to choose the best strategy to adapt a campaign’s messages for your target culture.


This is where you need transcreation.

What is transcreation?


Transcreation refers to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context.

Highly branded materials will often need the process of transcreation, such as product names, slogans and advertisement copy.

The process involves more than simple translation, where words are changed from one language into another. The original source is usually reimagined in a completely new way, while maintaining the original brand idea. Transcreation doesn’t mean starting a campaign from scratch. The original idea is adapted by a team of creative and experienced translators to suit the target audience.

Each member of the team needs to be an expert in translation, creativity, and have an in-depth understanding of the local culture’s values.

We have a specific hiring process to ensure that our translators show an excellence in execution of transcreation. Our translating team consists of creative copywriters who are experienced and understand various languages and cultures inside-out.

This means that they can recreate the brand to suit the target audience, produce positive reactions, reach their needs, and appeal to their emotions.


Coca-Cola’s transcreation fail


When Chinese shops first imported Coca-Cola in the 1920s, they wrote the name in Chinese characters. The characters pronounced “Coca-Cola” had the nonsensical meaning ‘mare stuffed with wax’. So, for its official Chinese launch in 1928, the brand chose a different name. The pronunciation was only slightly different, sounding like ‘KokouKolay’, and it meant ‘a pleasure in the mouth’.

Coco-Cola turned an epic transcreation-fail into a success.


How do I approach transcreation?


There are a few steps you need to take when approaching transcreation.

Double-check your source content

It’s crucial at this stage to check with your in-house marketing team whether the language, images, idioms and colours of your creative content and messages are suitable for the new target culture.

For example, in China, the number ‘four’ is seen as unlucky.

We suggest doing some market research prior to the transcreation process to find out how competitors in the same market create their messages successfully. It’s also worth identifying any common trends popular in the culture.

Get a professional assessment from a marketing specialist translation agency on whether your content will be a success in the target market.

At Brightlines, this is something we’re more than happy to offer our clients.

Ensure your language partner understands the target audience

Good language agencies will build your project around the desired audience – taking that into consideration as part of the brief.

Including ‘ideal audience’ as part of your brief can help the agency provide you with the best linguists for the project. Being unclear could lead to mixed results.

Ask potential suppliers how they plan to adapt their processes, given the specific audience you’re targeting. Have they done work targeting a similar audience before?

If the process of transcreation isn’t carried out correctly, then it could have damaging effects on your brand. We’ve created our own helpful guide on How to choose your translation agency, so you can find “the one”.

Begin your transcreation

Before your start, the first thing you need to do is gather all you source material and brand guidelines. This way your language services provider can put their ideas forward.

You’re going to need to plan adequately, as transcreation is a process which takes time to get right. Set realistic goals with your agency, and work to reasonable timescales.

The transcreation team will need a detailed brief to describe the purpose of the campaign, the context, the target market, the demographic, the key message, and the language(s) required.

Following the brief, they’ll need the creative freedom to make the campaign successful in global markets.

Review, review, review…

Once you’ve received the first version of your recreated content and copy, you’ll need to get it approved by an in-country reviewer. This person should have marketing experience, and understand the product or service you’re promoting.

  • The reviewer will judge the tone of voice, terminology and expressions, and check that the message communicated is just right for the target market.
  • As an ‘arbitration step’, you may consider getting a second in-country reviewer involved to ensure that all the adaptations are necessary. (This isn’t crucial, so don’t worry if you’re restricted time-wise.)
  • Your language partner may question the recommendations from the reviewer, so you need to prepare for this. Language partners only have the best interest of your brand in mind, so you should trust their expertise, as well as the reviewer’s.
  • Send the recreated content to your linguistic reviewer for proofing.

Designing your campaign

Your creative messages have been successfully reimagined through transcreation. You have great slogans and content. So what now?

Design your campaign and bring your recreated content to life.

Your transcreation partner can help you design the format of your recreated content – or you can use your in-house design team. Ensure that whoever you appoint to design your campaign is experienced in handling international content.

There are two parts to the design stage:

• Typesetting
The designers will ensure that the copy fits with the target format, so there are no awkward breaks or gaps of white space. Your transcreation partner will be experienced in the formatting of different languages and understand how to tweak the design to make it work.

• Visual elements
Different colours and imagery will be better suited to certain cultures. If required, your partner will work with you to develop different layouts and imagery, so they are culturally appropriate. Adapting artwork in this way is called localisation.

For example, in Britain, blue often connoted sadness and ‘the blues’. In many Middle Eastern countries, blue means safety and protection, and is symbolic of heaven, spirituality and immortality.
Be prepared to explain to your brand team (if you have one) the reasons behind the different colour and layout compared to the source material.

Test it out

If you’ve been pulling your hair out trying to decide between a couple of alternatives, this is the stage to decide. You can use a market-research tool to ask questions and gain valuable answers.

You could form a local focus group within your target market and ask them to react to various choices. This will get you the most accurate and valuable feedback.

If the content and messages are a success, it’s time to roll the campaign out!

Push your campaign globally

This is the most exciting part of the whole transcreation process.

Pushing your campaign in your target market creates the opportunity to finally see your hard work made a reality.

You’ll need to have a detailed execution plan to make your marketing campaign successful globally.
We recommend putting together a detailed guide to help your marketing team know exactly how to push the campaign, so it runs as smoothly as possible.

This guide could include:

• The goals of your campaign
• Target audience and demographic
• Plans and timescales (blog posts, push email campaigns etc)
• The channels used (social, email etc)

Once the campaign is rolling, the next step is to track its progress.

Measure the campaigns performance

The best way to see the success of the transcreation process is to measure the performance of the campaign in your target market.

• Plan how you’re going to measure success
This includes choosing the best metrics and staying consistent with them. Consistency in your metrics means reports will be comparing the success of a campaign fairly across the different markets.

• Make the report simple
It’s counter-productive to have a complex report that takes hours to understand. Your team should be able to interpret the report and understand the factors behind the success or failure of the campaign.

Marketing transcreation is one of the most complicated yet rewarding aspects of international marketing.

Get in touch if you would like an expert transcreation partner to help you push your creative content globally.