Transcreation: When Do You Need It?


Transcreation: When Do You Need It?

Bad translations may be good for a laugh, but they also damage brand image. American fast-food chain KFC discovered this the hard way when its famous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” became “We’ll eat your fingers off” in China. And KFC is far from the only company to make such a mistake. Fortunately, transcreation can help you avoid a similar marketing failure and ensure your international launch is successful.

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What Is Transcreation?

Transcreation is the process of creatively translating a message to evoke the same emotions in the target market as the original. It requires a blend of creative translation and copywriting to maintain the style, tone, intent, and overall brand value. 

Unlike translation, which aims to recreate the meaning as closely as possible, transcreation may involve re-imagining the message entirely. For example, German auto manufacturer BMW altered its tagline “Pleasure in Driving” to “The Ultimate Driving Machine” when it launched in the U.S. market. Using transcreation, BMW aimed to connect with American consumers who wanted
a premium driving experience.  

When Should You Choose Transcreation? 

As you can see, transcreation is associated with creative content. It isn’t appropriate when facts and accuracy are of the utmost importance, as with legal documents or business reports. However, it’s an excellent option when you want to prioritize emotional intent over accuracy. 

While not a complete list, here are five types of projects that benefit from transcreation. 

Ad Campaigns 

Ad campaigns tend to be short and catchy due to limited space. Advertisers will often use cultural references to connect with their audience as quickly as possible to get their message across. However, this poses two challenges in translation: working within those space restrictions and adapting references for a different culture. A transcreator who understands the target market can re-imagine the message with pithy copy and the appropriate cultural references. 

Marketing Content 

Brochures, direct mail, email, and social media are just a few ways to reach out to customers. Given the creativity that goes into each, it should be no surprise that marketing content is a candidate for transcreation. Like ad campaigns, marketing pieces should grab an audience’s attention and keep them engaged with a brand. That may require altering content to reflect local customs and cultural norms.


Before launching in a new market, websites typically undergo a process known as localization. This involves adapting both the technical aspects and the content for the target market. Transcreation may be a better option than translation when the goal is to promote a product or service instead of simply providing information. Transcreation will let you get more creative with messaging and makes it easier to adapt content for multilingual SEO

Digital Apps

Like websites, digital apps undergo localization for international markets. Yet limited space and the need to translate buttons, commands, and navigation in context makes the process more challenging. For example, the German word anmelden can mean login, register, or subscribe. That means translators must choose words more carefully to persuade the user to take the desired course of action. Depending on the purpose of the app, transcreation may be a better option than translation. 

Product Names

Before you launch a product in a new market, you need to analyze the name. Does a product with the same name already exist there? Or does the name have a different meaning? To make things more complicated, the same word may be considered offensive in one country but not another, even though they speak the same language. A transcreator will analyze the market and help you choose a product name that will appeal to potential customers. 

Working with Transcreators

Now that you know more about transcreation, let’s look at best practices for working with transcreators. 

Ideally, the transcreators you choose will be natives in the country where you plan to launch. That’s because they need an in-depth knowledge of the local culture as well as the current vernacular. For example, say you want to launch a product in Quebec, Canada. A transcreation team based in Montreal, the province’s capital, will be a better fit than one based in Paris, France. When you speak with a language services provider, ask if they have a network of transcreators in your target market(s). 

After you hire a team, you should give them as much information as possible to ensure that they understand both the brand and business goals. That could include providing information about the companies: 

  • Products and services
  • Brand guidelines
  • Market research
  • Target audience(s)
  • Vision and values

The transcreation team will use this information to develop a brand positioning strategy and messaging. Since this is a collaborative process, the project may need to undergo several rounds of revisions before its ready to launch. Giving transcreators more guidance may reduce the turnaround time, but remember that transcreation typically takes longer than translation. 

While it’s more complex than translation, transcreation is often the most effective way to ensure a successful launch in a global market. 

How Vistatec Can Help

At Vistatec, we take a partnership approach to transcreation. Our transcreators make it their business to understand your brand vision and bring it to life. Natives in the country where you want to launch, they’re immersed in the local culture, trends, and vernacular. As a result, you can rest assured that your transcreated message will hit the right note every time. 

Ready to launch in a new market? Contact us today!        

About Vistatec

We have been helping some of the world’s most iconic brands to optimize their global commercial potential since 1997. Vistatec is one of the world’s leading global content solutions providers. HQ in Dublin, Ireland, with offices in Mountain View, California, USA.