Brand translation: transcreation or copywriting?
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Brand translation: transcreation or copywriting?

Brand translation: transcreation or copywriting?

Global BrandsAny company with a strong brand (Starbucks is the classic example) needs to make sure that their brand campaign and all associated materials are effective globally. Any company’s brand has to do with having the right look/feel/vibe so people will buy and be loyal to your brand.

First, a brand campaign needs to be created as specific for that market. This effort (usually done by an in-country ad agency) would involve in-market research – loads of it to find out all about the target market, most relevant media channels, buying behaviors, user preferences and that will resonate most – to come up with that campaign.

Then you need to translate taglines, product descriptions, ad copy, and collateral. This usually involves a version of highly specialized translation called transcreation, in which a specialized resource recreates the source version to be appropriate for the target locale.

Clients have asked me lately who that specialized resource might be? You have two choices: in-country copywriters or transcreators.


  • Are bilingual
  • Are linguists who are specialized in transcreation
  • Will be bi-cultural; will understand source concepts and how they may parlay into in-country concepts
  • Will adapt content so that it is appropriate for the market, not write from scratch
  • Address concerns about cultural gaps, market suitability, etc.
  • Use the English as source rather than as a reference only
  • Have the license to interpret the brand as they go
  • Use CAT tools, references and glossaries, which increase consistency and can speed up work

 In-country copywriters:

  • Are ad agency writers specializing in marketing content
  • May not be bilingual
  • Will create copy from scratch in the target language directly
  • May refer to the English copy but consider it almost irrelevant 
  • Have the license to create the brand as they go
  • Work offline. This means that work will occur outside of CAT tools, so glossaries and TMs will not be used

Again, if the brand and approach governing all marketing content needs to be created for the in-country market, then copywriters and advertising professionals would be required to create that new approach. This new approach would guide all future transcreation.

Both transcreators and copywriters will deliver marketing materials that are effective in-country, but transcreators will meet the need at less cost, in less time, and will achieve more consistency between pieces due to the use of traditional translation process and technology.

You will also see the term marketing translation, which generally applies to website content, flyers – material that is still highly branded but less creative in nature.

Clear as mud? Agree or disagree? Please post your comments. The dialogue is welcome; remember we are all friends here.