Copywriting in Another Language? That’s Called Transcreation

You’ve been there before: You create copy that’s so on point that you can’t wait to publish it – in English, at least. 

But what about your international audience? 

If you’re like most marketing managers or PR managers, you’ll have the copy written in your primary language and send it off to a translator, meanwhile dreaming that you could just have the copy rewritten fresh in every language. That would make it better than a simple translation, wouldn’t it? 

What you may not know is that most marketing translators not only offer this service, but do it better than copywriters. It’s called transcreation.

What is transcreation?

It’s the multistep, cross-cultural process of 

  • translating and 
  • re-creating 

content or copy.

Transcreation is also known as re-writing or re-adapting. It’s a creative process commonly applied within the creative industries.

At its core, transcreation is copywriting in another language. As a result, you’ll get the same quality as you would if you hired a separate copywriter in each language,  only the copywriter also deeply understands your current version.

Transcreation vs. translation

So, what’s the difference between the two? 

While translation is more suitable for informative text, transcreation aims to trigger an action from the reader.

Isn’t that just a marketing translation then? Not quite.

Translators also stray away from the original text where it makes sense. They may find equivalents for idioms or puns, but their job is to essentially reproduce the original message in their native language. 

Transcreation allows translators to be as creative as is necessary. They give your content a local flavor and bring it to life in foreign markets.

Translation:Transcreation:

Main goal:

inform

convert

Closeness to original text:

fairly close and accurate without being literal

liberal rather than literal, straying away from the original as much as necessary

Emotional connection:

more neutral

high

Best used for:

everyday documents, informative marketing texts

slogans, taglines, marketing campaigns, emotional messages

What does the transcreation process involve?

Let’s say you have copy that takes a little creativity to hit the sweet spot: a mix of UX, storytelling, and nuanced cultural references that aren’t exactly translatable. Naturally, you’re nervous to pass it over to your translation agency.  Ask your trusted translation agency to determine if transcreation fits the bill.

This is what the process roughly looks like:

  1. First, the transcreator reads the original material. This strengthens their affinity with your brand, its product/service, and TOV (tone of voice).
  2. Next, they create a few translation variations, moving further and further away from the original text in doing so. Cultural taboos and offensive terminology are also checked in this process. The last thing you want is a lawsuit or offended customers on your hands.
  3. Lastly, back translations into English or your primary language help you decide which option suits your brand best.

The goal is not to change every single thing about the original, but rather adapt it to better resonate with your local target market. The result is new copy that is particularly designed with your brand and international customer avatar in mind.

Good and bad transcreation examples

What can transcreation look like? 

Local idioms

Let’s first have a look at a well-known saying:

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

How would you go about relaying this phrase in German, for example? There is no literal translation that works, let alone one that rhymes. But there is a transcreated version used in Germany:

Iss einen Apfel am Tag und du hast dir den Arzt gespart.

Back translation:

Eat one apple a day, and you’ll luck out on the doctor.

The back translation still has the same meaning. Plus, it rhymes!

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola’s popular ‘Share a Coke’ campaign illustrated the power of good transcreation: They personalized their bottle labels with people’s names. To take it a step further, the beverage company researched the most common names in each country. This marketing move was as unique and appealing as the brand itself.

Image source: coca-cola.com

Pepsi

Here’s an example of where transcreation could have helped:

Back in the 1960s, Pepsi’s slogan ‘Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation!’ was adapted for the Chinese market. 

Image source: pinterest.com

The back translation truly sends chills down your spine:

‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.’

It’ss a good drink, but not that good.


Image source: wordpress.com         

Get the most out of your transcreation

What can you do to ensure a smooth transcreation process?

Provide a brief

The more information you share with your transcreator, the more time and money you’ll save later on. Just like you’d brief the copywriter, you should also brief the transcreator. Good thing is, you can brief them in your source language.

A good brief should include:

  • Your objectives: Define your product/service and its purpose.
  • Your target audience: Who is the copy for? Give as much information about your buyer persona as possible (age, gender, locality, hobbies, education, etc.).
  • Your tone of voice: How do you speak to your target customer? Is it formal or informal? Do you use humor or are you more serious? What emotional reaction are you going for?
  • Deadline and budget: A transcreation is a huge time and money-saver when you compare it to translating and then copywriting. At the same time, it’s still more complex than a straightforward translation. 

Share supporting brand materials

You know your brand best. Share some of that expertise with your transcreator for them to fulfill the brief, such as:

  • Brand guidelines
  • Glossary and style guide
  • Images, videos, sounds
  • Leaflets and other print material, if applicable
  • Hashtags for social media campaigns

Be available for questions

Through open and direct communication, the transcreator can tailor their service to your brand. Plus, you get to choose your favorite options throughout the process. This will give the transcreator a better idea of what you’re going for. 

Ready to make your copy convert internationally?

Transcreation makes your message appeal to a foreign audience on an emotional level. It’s how you get fresh new copy from a single source – and it’s all done in one efficient process!
Any questions about how to get started on your transcreation project? Get in touch with us, it’s kind of what we do!



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