How Transcreation Can Make or Break a Company

April 4, 2023
How Transcreation Can Make or Break a Company

Enhance your global market presence by reaching your target audience with the right message at the right time. What is transcreation in business? Transcreation involves translating and localizing content to reflect an understanding of the cultural attitudes that define a community and bring it together. Sensitivity to local preferences plays a role in attuning your brand to the community before launching a transcreated marketing campaign.

All and Ins and Outs of Transcreation

Transcreation involves communicating content from one language to another without losing the meaning, tone, or sentimental effect it had in the previous tongue. Advertising and marketing firms employ transcreation techniques to captivate groups of people who share common geography and background. 

The method requires the tactful transference of the desired emotion to the specific audience. This approach warrants a profound understanding of the source language and the target market’s cultural norms, culture, and vocabulary. Transcreation requires creativity, marketing competence, cultural awareness, and extensive language expertise.

Transcreation, Localization, and Translation

The transcreation framework claims a defined space within marketing and translation services due to the specificity of its function, which is to enable businesses to connect with any audience. When examining transcreation vs. localization, we see that transcreation involves more than adapting translated content into vernaculars, as localization services do. A valid transcreation must make the audience feel like one of their own created the content.

Many people mistake transcreation for translation, too. The main difference is that transcreation converts content so the message offers the same punch in one market as another. To achieve the desired outcome, it may force the transcreator to start from scratch, changing the whole format of the message without losing its essence. In such circumstances, it may be hard to see the difference in transcreation vs. copywriting in the target language. 

What Makes Great Transcreation? Insights From Professionals in the Field

What is transcreation in business? A great business transcreation is so seamless that you do not even recognize it. Marketing companies value comprehensive knowledge of the intended market to avoid cultural misunderstandings, content deficiencies, unsuitable approaches, and banalities. Staying cognizant of these subtleties proves crucial because it will help you set the right tone for the brand in a foreign market. An inefficient transcreation job misses these benchmarks.

Inadequate translation can corrupt the message you send to your intended audience. Even if you get the translation right, the reception of the message may change if you ignore cultural context and market climate. If you fail to make a good first impression, it will affect your company’s prospects. For assistance, check out this advertising translation guide.

Professional Insights Into Transcreation

Translators and marketers who work in transcreation offer the best insight into the creative process. Katharina Eddins, an English-to-German translation expert, confides that “people shouldn't know how great a transcreation [looks] because they shouldn't be able to tell that it was transcreated at all.”

Ana Biško, an English-to-Croatian transcreation specialist, was called to resolve a conflict between a translation company and a client. It seems the Croatian client felt dissatisfied with several drafts of a product catalog for training staff members. 

She identified some grandiose Italianized language that had been transliterated into the English copy during a previous translation. To a Croatian, the over-the-top vocabulary was too much. She relates, “Another approach had to be taken…one that included transcreators, not translators.”

Finally, transcreation expert Cristina Ticoi says, “Most of the time when I work on transcreation projects, I am required to provide three possible versions of the message being transcreated, along with a detailed rationale justifying my choices.” The required rational justification of the decisions that go into transcreation reflects the depth of thought necessary for even a single transcreated sentence.

Examples of Successful Transcreation

1. McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” Campaign 

McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign serves as a great example of transcreation done right. The company managed to enter many new local markets while maintaining its worldwide appeal. They translated slogans, adapted their strategies, and even changed their menus to charm different cultures and cater to their food preferences. 

For example, in France, McDonald’s translated their “I’m Lovin’ It” catchphrase to “C’est tout ce que j’aime,” or “That’s All I Love,” which mirrors the French expression for things they like. They featured French celebrities in McDonald’s commercials and even created menus that reflected the local palate.

2. Red Bull Rebranding for the Chinese Market 

The popular energy drink, Red Bull, enjoyed massive success with western consumers because its secret formula made you more productive and added a pep to your step. Red Bull’s famous slogan claims the beverage “Gives You Wings.” 

However, when Red Bull entered the Chinese market, it made some changes to accommodate its target audience. First, they created a non-fizzy variant of Red Bull because Chinese consumers prefer it. Then, they changed the color of the Red Bull can to red, gold, and black, symbolizing good fortune in China. These subtle adjustments propelled Red Bull to a fruitful launch in China.

3. White Friday vs. Black Friday 

Consumers in the US usually associate Black Friday with the day after Thanksgiving. Retail stores offer discounts to shoppers, signaling the start of the holiday shopping season. To Americans, Black Friday often means a big sale. However, the color black can carry disparate meanings in different cultures. 

For example, in Arabic-speaking countries, black means tragedy and death. People often wear black attire to show their grief and sadness. Hence, celebrating a day called “Black Friday” would repel the culture you wish to attract. Advertisers in the Middle East changed Black Friday to White Friday to enjoy more success in the region. 

Examples of Unsuccessful Transcreation

1. “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation”

To compete with their rival Coca-Cola, Pepsi made several attempts to come up with catchy sayings targeted at young people, including “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation.” Suddenly, Pepsi became the most sought-after refreshment because all the youngsters wanted to drink it.  

However, when Pepsi expanded to China, it failed to capture the Chinese market with the same slogan. The reason became apparent when the translation from English to Chinese read, “Pepsi Will Bring Your Ancestors Back from the Dead.” The Chinese revere and worship their fallen ancestors, so this marketing strategy turned off the Chinese audience.  

2. “Electrolux Sucks”

In the 1960s, Swedish-owned vacuum company, Electrolux, tried to launch their product in English-speaking countries. They wanted to use the slogan, “Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux.” The unfortunate expression was intentional, and the Electrolux advertising team knew about the ambiguous meaning of the word “sucks.” 

The manufacturer intended to grab people’s attention and maybe earn a chuckle. The risk paid off, at least in the UK. In the US, however, the slogan did not do very well, and many people often interpreted it as a clumsy translation blunder. Electrolux eventually changed its slogan to avoid further damage to its brand. 


What is transcreation in business? We now know a good transcreation seamlessly sets the right tone for a company in any culture, region, or language. In a global market, we must remain aware of our delicate social fabric woven by human relations and interaction. A globalized world will require advancements in transcreation that go beyond business and reach into matters of the heart.


By Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis is an American business writer living abroad. When he is not writing compelling prose, he enjoys basketball, weightlifting, and teaching his daughter how to bodyboard. Over the past year, more than one million words have crossed Ben's desk.



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