If you’ve done the research, implemented A/B testing, have clear buyer personas, and are confident in your engagement strategy, yet your global marketing return on investment is keeping you up at night, transcreation could be the answer. Simply put, it is the art and science of successfully marketing across cultures.
Transcreation differs markedly from conventional translation, which encompasses the process of switching words in one language into another to preserve the literal meaning. Transcreation ensures your message hits home in another culture in terms of connotation, cultural sensitivity and linguistic nuances. In short, while translation focuses on creating corresponding literal meaning, transcreation centres on conveying the original intent of content in a different language and culture.
It often involves the reworking of the original concept to make it relevant and engaging in the target language, and requires translators to creatively engage with the marketing strategy. This leeway extends to transcreators creating new product slogans and names, and even deciding the colours and images to be used. High-quality transcreators are not only talented linguists, but expert copywriters and are good at design. When looking at what can go right and what can go wrong with marketing in different cultures, it’s easy to see why more and more firms are searching for expert transcreators.
Between the two biggest markets in the world – the US and China – not only does consumer behaviour differ in terms of values, attitudes and beliefs, the regulations governing marketing campaigns are distinctive. Imagine a US-based tutoring platform aimed at teens expanding into China, where social cohesion is a long-standing cultural motif, and rolling out a marketing campaign that riffs on so-called ‘woke’ values of diversity and social justice.
Or, take the real-world case of Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, which in November 2018 launched three videos on Chinese social media to promote its upcoming runway show. The clips feature models clumsily attempting to eat Italian food like pizza and spaghetti with chopsticks. This was seen by many Chinese consumers as insulting, with the backlash resulting in a cancelled show and dismal sales results.
But brands that get it right, reap the rewards. For example, in 2020, Coca-Cola honed in on a popular method of consuming its soda in China – heating it and adding ginger to create a cold-fighting remedy. The marketing copy was sensitive to traditional Chinese medicine concepts of balanced consumption (think yin and yang) and emphasised the product as a warming beverage. In 2019, Coca-Cola accounted for some 42% of the Chinese carbonated drinks market.
Messaging written for one target audience segment usually won’t resonate with a different group, especially across borders. Transcreation experts are innovative, are often copywriters and editors, and start with a creative brief, as opposed to translation, where the translator starts with the source text and aims to convey the literal meaning. The result is brand new messaging that achieves the intent of the marketing strategy.
Even though a great translator will translate text in the spirit of the original text, the message can become blurred in this context. Transcreation is a better fit when you want to prompt an action, whereas translation would be appropriate to convey information. Transcreators focus on the tone of voice, bias, and the target group to finesse the message. Rather than using dubbing and subtitling on existing content, for example, transcreation would entail new multimedia content.
What with ads, multilingual EO, web content and social media engagement, marketing campaigns are costly, often running into millions of dollars. The consequences of a flop can be poor sales, a negative brand perception and even a fine if an ad were found to transgress local regulations. Transcreation mitigates these risks through adapting marketing campaigns to a specific environment. Mitigating these risks helps optimise return on investment.
Transcreation even includes picking the most appropriate colours to include in marketing materials and sourcing appropriate imagery. In India, for example, when Marvel released the Spider-Man comic series, the backstory was changed so that Peter Parker became Mumbai-native Pavitr Prabhakar, who wears a dhoti (traditional trouser-like drape worn by men in India) and was born in a poor village. Though the details are significantly different, the essence of Spidey as a young male who is imbued with super powers is the same. Consumers who easily relate to the brand message are more likely to purchase your product or service.
When you take your marketing efforts abroad, your enterprise will have to pick between transcreation, translation and localisation .
Transcreation and localisation both localise copy, but to differing extents. If you think that your content will not be received well by your target consumers if it is localised only, then transcreation is the way to go. The cost of misjudging these options could be high, but getting it right will increase the likelihood of maximising your marketing return on investment. A hybrid approach is also an option, whereby elements of the marketing campaign are transcreated and others are simply localised.
As transcreators have much more creative wriggle room than translators – wearing the two hats of creator and translator – they need a very clear and specific brief, and close collaboration is important. Therefore, picking the right partner is paramount. The secret sauce to getting marketing and transcreation right is great communication. After all, the transcreator needs to thoroughly understand the underlying concept to be able to translate the client’s marketing concept.
The kind of information you’d need to convey are your target audience, marketing objectives, the benefits for the target group, the marketing campaign content, and the distribution channels. Given the significant creative element of the cross cultural communication services process, transcreation is a more complex undertaking than most translation. For example, the transcreation process involves localisation testing , multimedia localisation services , and more drafts and iterations for ongoing feedback than with translation. As has been shown above, this extra effort is worth it.
At Into23 we have seasoned Marketing Translation and Transcreation experts who will be able to respond to your evolving needs. Talk to our expert team today for a free assessment and quote.