Marketing translation and transcreation are not the same thing
Marketing translation is completed by linguists specializing in marketing materials. Their work is faithful to the concepts of the English, and maintains the original vibe and tone. These translators take some creative license with the content, replacing jokes, comparisons, metaphors, and idioms with local variants. But they don’t adapt the brand voice, nor recreate the concept for that market.
Here’s an example. We have this expression in American English: ‘you can’t put lipstick on a pig’. This means ‘don’t try to make something beautiful that isn’t inherently beautiful’. In Spanish, it’s not a direct translation—that would seem ridiculous to Spanish speakers. In Spanish, the similar expression is "Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona queda"—even though the monkey is seen in silk, it’s still a monkey.
So, what is transcreation?
Transcreation takes it a step further. Now you’re talking about brand: voice, tone, attitude, and emotions. It’s 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 highly-branded content to be very local—but to preserve fidelity to the brand’s original vibe, look, and feel as much as possible, at the same time. (Not so easy.) Transcreation makes sure that a campaign piece recreates the impact of the original, even if not necessarily using the same message.
Take a look at this chart that might help explain it.
So now you get it. But how do you do it?
Many marketers have limited experience localizing global campaigns, and are unsure about how to approach the project or manage it for best results.
If you can relate, don’t worry. We’ve got a detailed six-step guide to everything you need to know—from choosing the right approach, to briefing a transcreation partner, to reviewing assets in languages you don’t speak.