How to Globalize Your Highly-branded Content
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How to Globalize Your Highly-branded Content

How to Globalize Your Highly-branded Content

Your highly visible brand can’t afford creative mishaps in your target markets. (There are too many examples out there of things gone terribly wrong.) You spent a fortune creating your marketing content, painstakingly designing it to get specific reactions and trigger strong emotions from your buyer. But if it comes across as ‘meh’ or worse, ‘bleh,’ in a new market, then your brand’s reputation will suffer. You have to create messages that are perfect for the new market while keeping the intent, style, voice, tone, and context of the original as much as possible. Not an easy feat.

There are a couple ways you can go about doing this. But first, there are some confusing terms to clear up.


“Marketing localization” is the umbrella term for a suite of activities that take place in the globalization of marketing campaigns, and it can include marketing translation, transcreation, and/or in-country copywriting.

All too often, “marketing translation” and “transcreation” are used interchangeably. Though the distinctions may seem subtle, you must understand how they differ so you can have clear conversations with your vendors, choose the right approach, and get the best results.

Transcreation = re-creation

In a transcreation project, a super-specialized linguist recreates the source content to make it appropriate for the target locale. They key term here is “recreates,” which means reinvent, create again, or give new life to. It’s almost starting over: the source content is used as reference rather than the source.

Typically, the process of transcreation applies to taglines, product names, slogans, and advertisement copy; anything highly branded.

The linguists who do this work are experienced creatives and senior-level experts. And they need to be armchair sociologists and cultural anthropologists too; they are expected to understand and represent the behaviors and beliefs of their native culture.

It’s hard to estimate the amount of time required to do this highly creative work, so transcreation is often charged by the hour. It also involves more review cycles as stakeholders collaborate to get the message right. Transcreation simply takes more time and money than more straightforward translation work.

The Wikipedia page on transcreation gives an interesting example.

A U.S. pharmaceutical company wanted to market a contraceptive product to two separate populations – U.S. English-speakers and U.S. Latinas. They created an advertising campaign that looked and felt the same, but appealed in different ways to their targeted audiences. The original U.S. English version was about convenience; the one for the Spanish version was about freedom of choice. These choices reflected the transcreators’ research on what drives women in each demographic to choose contraceptive products.

Marketing translation = adaptation

In marketing translation, you adapt or modify content from one language to another while maintaining intent, style, tone, and context. The linguist translates the text, but also adjusts the slang, cultural references, idioms, humor, and images to be more relevant to and resonant with the target market. The original text here is used as the source, and not just reference.

Typically, marketing translation is performed on web content, product descriptions, catalogues, marketing collateral, video scripts, and some social media content.

Marketing translation is often charged by the word, and follows the regular translation / edit / proofreading (TEP) process. It also can make use of a Translation Memory, leveraging content from past marketing translation projects.

Here are our Ten Steps for Getting Marketing Localization Right.

Choosing between them

Now that you understand the differences between the two, it will be easier for you to choose the right approach. I’d advise this: go straight to transcreation with your slogan or tagline. For brochures, catalogs or service-oriented web copy, a marketing translation approach should be just fine. For branded web copy (your home page), it may not be as clear, depending on the creative level of marketing content on your site. So, be sure to get input from the experts: your LSP or in-house linguists can help you decide if marketing translation or transcreation is the best approach.

And I can’t leave out copywriting in a discussion about highly-branded content: this process may be best if you need super-local content, or a whole new ad campaign for a specific market. For a discussion of copywriting, go here.

Get it right from the start

We often see projects start out as marketing translation, but then the scope creeps once stakeholders realize just how complex the work is and how irrelevant the original message is to the target audience. Sometimes it’s impossible to know whether your initial marketing translation approach will work until feedback comes in from the linguists or from in-country stakeholders.

I’ve also seen marketing content forced to be translated in order to save money when a transcreation process was needed instead. I can tell you that when it comes to highly branded content, decisions based on pricing are never good ones.

The worst situation is when negative feedback comes from your market. Your product never takes off. Your message doesn’t make sense. Consumers just don’t get you and what you’re trying to sell to them.

The best way to avoid false starts and wasted budget is to have structured, up-front conversations about the goals of the content, the target demographic, and the source content itself. Have experts do an assessment of the source material to help craft a solid strategy.

Both transcreation and marketing translation tackle the translation of creative content. They both aim to inspire the buyer to bond with the product, become loyal, recommend it to others, and of course, spend their money on it. But remember that these services are quite different: processes, resources, costs, and project durations are not the same. If you want to get the best ROI from your marketing spend, choose wisely.

Want more? Check out our top six tips for doing marketing localization right.