Building a great global brand requires more than merely translating marketing materials or product information into a local language. Rather, effective global brands collaborate with experienced transcreation teams. Transcreation—the process of going beyond translation to adapt branded marketing content for a specific market—requires highly specialized resources who employ a creative process that not only captures the meaning of the original content, but tailors it to fit the culture of the target market.
In this blog post, the first in a three-part series about transcreation, we will explore the screening process to identify the right transcreation talent for your brand. In the second post, we will look at how transcreation effectiveness and quality are measured. We will conclude this blog series with some tips to strengthen your brand voice.
Transcreation team profiles
Transcreation teams consist of three distinct professional profiles that work together to advance a brand’s global image and reach.
The first team member profile is the global brand champion. The global brand champion is a marketing expert that ensures consistency of the brand’s messaging across all marketing channels. He or she is seasoned in both marketing and localization processes. The global brand champion also serves as the main liaison to the client and interfaces with the local brand champions (discussed below). Global brand champions create the creative briefs and manage transcreation workflows and reference materials. He or she also collaborates with client localization teams to ensure that transcreators adapt materials in a way that is consistent with the global brand image.
The second type of team member is local brand champions. Local brand champions are seasoned linguists with experience translating marketing materials and have backgrounds in social sciences that facilitate a deep social and cultural understanding of the target market. They are familiar with the nuances of the brand and understand consumer preferences and behaviours in the local markets. They recruit the transcreators, serve as the main liaison between the client and the in-country transcreation teams during projects and act as the main reviewers. They serve an essential quality control function to ensure that the work is consistent with the brand’s message and that the translation is accurate, and they may also do some transcreation work alongside the team. Local brand champions are in constant contact with the global brand champion to ensure uniformity in brand messaging.
The third category of professional in the transcreation team is transcreators, the creative minds responsible for adapting content so that it resonates with the target cultures. Transcreators are copywriters and marketing specialists. Not only do they adapt content, they play an integral role in guiding the look and feel of creative assets and marketing campaigns.
Building your transcreation team
When building your team, you not only want to identify individuals that can serve each of these functions, you want to ensure a highly collaborative and long-term working relationship between them. A lot of work goes into finding the highly specialized talent that drives a successful global branding effort. Moreover, team members must be able to commit to working together long enough to build up vital brand knowledge and style preferences. High attrition rates are both costly and can negatively impact a brand’s localization efforts.
For these reasons, it is crucial to identify the right creative talent at the outset. This requires some due diligence and a commitment to formalized and consistent screening processes. While different global brands have their own unique requirements and challenges, the screening process should seek to identify the creative skills detailed below.
Ability to apply stylistic rules
Style guides are essential tools for delivering consistent messaging across all marketing channels. They document grammar, punctuation, voice and tone guidelines and provide content types with examples, a terminology list (and a list of terms to avoid) and information about what the brand stands for. Style guides make sure that no matter how, when or where a customer experiences your brand, they are experiencing the same underlying traits.
Many localization procurement managers require test translations from candidates, yet they fail to request that the samples adhere to their specific guidelines (and fail to provide them with the guide itself). This can result in a skewed example of the transcreator’s work and missing out on an opportunity to evaluate candidate’s ability to follow instructions.
Two-way cultural knowledge
Effective transcreation requires the creative adaptation of brand content for the culture of the target market. But without understanding the intent and cultural significance of the original message, the transcreator will fail to convey the meaning, or worse yet, offend an entire culture. Therefore, a transcreator must be well-versed in the language of the local country and possess first-hand knowledge of both the culture from which the content originates as well as the culture of the target market.
Things can go sideways quickly when a professional does not have two-way culture knowledge. This was the case when Puma famously released a pair of limited-edition running sneakers to commemorate the UAE’s 40th National Day. As part of its global branding efforts, Puma released pairs of sneakers to honour the cultures of select markets. The sneakers it chose for the UAE featured the colours of the UAE flag. While consumers in the United States or other western countries would proudly wear sneakers that display the colours of their flags, that is not the case in the UAE. In UAE culture, there is a history of associating anything that touches the floor as being unclean.
So, rather than honouring the UAE, Puma, a foreign brand, was perceived as disrespecting the national flag. Had Puma employed a transcreator that was also familiar with UAE culture, this marketing nightmare could have been avoided.
We mentioned above that long-term collaboration must be a priority. Transcreators accumulate knowledge of your brand, preferences, stylistic guidelines and experience over time. When transcreators leave the team, replacements must be recruited, screened, trained and onboarded. Not only is this costly, but it can significantly impact the consistency and stability of a brand’s marketing efforts. Thus, the screening process must involve questions about things like linguist availability and interest in establishing a long-lasting relationship.
Transcreation is a creative profession. Transcreators have to figure out the best way to craft content for a specific market similarly to the process that occurred when the creative team in the source country designed the brand in the first place.
Also, every brand has its own unique marketing needs. As a result, it is often necessary to procure a specialist that has knowledge and experience with a particular topic, product or content type. You should clearly communicate this need to vendors and get evidence of their competency. As creative types, transcreators often keep portfolios. Ask to see some samples of their work.
Some final thoughts
It’s not trivial to build the team that will hold your global brand in their hands. In-country stakeholders and global and local brand champions should be actively involved in the screening process to provide feedback on whether each transcreation candidate has the key skills and whether they would work well with the product team.
Remember Puma? There are many more examples like that out there, all avoided by having the right team in place. Encourage participation from the candidates. Structure your test in a way that fosters creative input and questions. Remind them that you are interested in assessing their creative skills. Otherwise, they may play it safe.
This said, screening and selecting the best transcreation talent can be challenging. Spend some time planning your approach to recruiting and hiring and apply your standards consistently to build industry-leading transcreation teams. And of course, if you don’t want to go it alone, work with a language service provider that has experience sourcing transcreation programs and pools of prequalified linguists at the ready.