A Buyer’s Guide to Transcreation
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A Buyer’s Guide to Transcreation

A Buyer’s Guide to Transcreation

Presenter Renato Beninatto is Moravia’s Chief Marketing Officer. In his webinar, “Transcreation: How to Get It Right,” he answered questions on the definition, challenges, and opportunities of transcreation.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation is what we call marketing localization. It is a set of activities—far beyond linguistic effort alone — that completely adapt and transform a marketing concept to suit the target market’s culture. It is a reworking of a product or service’s materials, images, examples, metaphors, etc., to preserve fidelity to the message’s brand, vibe, look, and feel while still being very local. It touches all aspects of a campaign: tag lines, product names, Web content, print media, and multimedia like audio, animations, video, and Web banners.

Learn more: A Practical Guide to Localization for Digital Marketing

How does transcreation differ from translation alone?

Word play, double entendre, and humor — these are the favorite tools of advertisers. No surprise, they are often also nightmares for translators. Take the word “shot” for example. In English, it can apply to drinks, to photography, to golf, or to weapons. A golfing equipment company could use any of those images as a play on “nice shot,” but the double entendre would be lost in languages for which these are all different words. Transcreation ensures that a campaign piece recreates the impact of the original, even if not necessarily using the same message.

Is there a price difference between transcreation and translation?

Let’s talk a little about money and pricing. When it comes to transcreation, the price of a word is at least double of what LSPs charge. It is common practise to budget a certain project based on how many hours and the effort that will be required to handle it.

“The World On Time” was the early slogan for FedEx. It is just four words. If you translate that using traditional price-per-word rates, you would get it for less than a dollar. But imagine how many hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars the advertising agency must have invested until deciding on this very powerful slogan!

Translating something like that and adapting it to different countries requires effort that is not captured in per-word pricing. While the projects are relatively small when compared to high-word-volume technical documentation, they also call for more attention. It is one thing if a manual, which is used occasionally and always after the purchase, contains mistakes, typos, or punctuation errors. Pre-sales marketing materials are altogether different.

There is a lot of research that indicates that bad language in pre-sales will affect the results of the company — most consumers don’t react well to badly written text. If the message doesn’t sound quite right the buyer will subconsciously carry a negative message throughout the buying process. The aim of transcreation is for the material to read as though it was well written in the reader’s language, to create interest in buying your product. Unsurprisingly, then, transcreation is often priced based on the hours and effort required to handle the job, not per word alone.

What challenges does transcreation bring?

Firstly, localization managers and other typical buyers of translation services have a hard time convincing procurement departments that transcreation is a different effort that needs to be priced accordingly.

Secondly, buyers who are used to the readily available human resources and turnarounds of translation jobs sometimes fail to understand that transcreation resources are more scarce and more expensive, outside of the usual translation talent pool.

Thirdly, buyers used to leveraging previously translated materials for cost savings will find little leverage here. For example, technical material like software, manuals, even user interfaces can be translated (with minor adjustments) into one Spanish for the 26 markets that speak Spanish, but the related marketing and sales materials absolutely need to be adapted to each local market.

Who provides transcreation services and to whom?

There are three factors that determine which kind of vendor would be right for transcreation jobs: the product type, the maturity of the local advertising market, and who “owns” the marketing budget.

Niche players — small agencies that specialize in marketing translation — work mostly with in-country creative agencies that employ copywriters and advertising professionals who create a brand’s locale-specific approach. They are better for sales-related materials and deal with projects that tend to be traditional advertising and micro sites that range from 2,000 to 5,000 words. They have greater license to create the brand as they go.

Then there are large language service provides like Moravia. We work with larger projects usually involving large numbers of languages. The transcreations are generally applied to websites, content fliers, and other marketing material that is still highly branded but less creative in nature. While niche copywriters may refer to the source English copy, it is almost irrelevant. Transcreators, on the other hand, will tend to use capitals, reference glossaries, and general translation technology to increase consistency and handle larger volumes.

A few years ago, Common Sense Advisory estimated that in the U.S. marketing and advertising accounted for around $150 million in transcreation work. But that was just the U.S. There is growth and demand for Chinese transcreation. Middle Eastern and Scandinavian languages had their recent spike. And ethnic markets everywhere, not only Hispanics in the U.S. but Poles in Ireland and the UK, Arab-speakers in Sweden — every market where there is a significant immigrant population creates opportunity for local transcreation.

With increasing demand for integrating marketing translation with search engine optimization and with easy access to new media like low-cost video and banner ads, there is no end to the need for transcreation.