Beyond Translation: How Transcreation Elevates Global Branding

Beyond Translation: How Transcreation Elevates Global Branding

Three colleagues sit at a table reviewing content on a laptop
Transcreation relies on collaboration among cultural experts and creative team members

Quick: Tell me everything that makes you unique, and why I should care.

That’s a tall order in any context. Introduce a language or cultural barrier between the speaker and the listener, and the challenge increases exponentially.

In the international business realm, all too often marketing teams spend months developing comprehensive brand campaigns to share what makes their businesses unique from their competitors, only to see that messaging diminished or diluted through the standard translation process.

And therein lies the problem: translation. In marketing, it isn’t enough.

Translation can communicate information, sure, but in marketing, you need your message to not just inform, but resonate with your target audiences. Effective production of creative marketing materials and branded content for international audiences requires a team of multicultural experts who specialize in transcreation–a process that incorporates market research, robust cultural knowledge, creative writing and translation to generate marketing materials that convey the intended message, even if they aren’t exactly faithful to the source copy (and often, they aren’t).

By budgeting time and resources for transcreation, businesses set themselves apart, showing high-level creativity, cultural sensitivity, and concern for prospective clients’ experiences with their brands, all of which can effectively expand their reach and elevate their brands to compete in a global market.

Brand Preservation & Elevation

Language is nuanced, and marketing language much more so, often employing turns of phrase, contemporary cultural references, and colloquialisms in an effort to have the highest impact. Simply translating portions of a carefully crafted communications campaign into their multilingual equivalents is not enough; not only will the messaging lose character and sentiment, but doing so could introduce unexpected language and/or cultural missteps that can damage the brand and deter prospective clients.

Certain terms, concepts, images, symbols, and even colors hold very different meanings and associations in different cultures. And, certain word combinations or phonetic pronunciations can cause confusion or even offense. There are countless examples of translations that miss the mark, on food menus, public signs, assembly instructions, children’s toys and yes – product slogans and tag lines.

But while such examples can undermine marketing campaigns and damage brands, culturally-aware, masterful translations–developed through transcreation–can not only strengthen a brand but elevate it, bringing unique, competitive advantage for the business.

Transcreation is the process of translating a message into not just another language, but another culture. It’s meant to impact, not merely inform.

Proactive Planning

The key to success in multicultural marketing is to bring in the experts early–ideally, in the concept development phase–and allow them to help shape the concept and deliverables for maximum impact. With guidance from the creative brief, transcreation specialists collaborate with all creative team members to develop everything from taglines and logos to websites and brochures. They help with everything from the 10,000-foot messaging to the micro-level considerations, such as social media posts and key terms for search engine optimization (after all, a brand is ineffective if prospective clients can’t find it).

Whereas translation is a technical and largely reactive approach, transcreation is a proactive approach, extending beyond the realm of faithful, verbatim translation and into the more fluid realm of creative writing and concept building.  Sure, a transcreation team can be mobilized after the fact to translate and transform components of an approved, developed marketing campaign. But redoing or reimagining certain campaign components is not as efficient or effective as developing them collaboratively with the marketing team. A better approach is to bring in culturally savvy, linguistically agile minds at the onset of a project. Doing so helps foster consistency in messaging and imagery across all languages and cultures–and in branding, consistency is key.

In our increasingly interconnected world, the possibility of effective global reach is not a long shot for businesses–it’s an expectation. And in such a climate, adopting transcreation as a necessary part of marketing strategy is not optional, but required.


Shane Reppert is the vice president of MultiLingual Solutions, and head of the firm’s business solutions division.

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