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The Art of Transcreation in Global Marketing

Updated: Feb 8

Sara from VF

Author: Sara Zanotto

Date of publication: 17/07/2023

Nowadays the term “Transcreation” is becoming increasingly popular among marketers, as it is essential for all the companies aiming to expand their business in the global marketplace.

“Transcreation” differs from literal translation. The term transcreation comes from the union of the words “translation” and “creation”. It can be described as a translation-related activity that encompasses the processes of: linguistic translation, cultural adaptation and (re-)creation or creative re-interpretation of specific sections within a text.

Transcreation is primarily used in advertising and marketing, but it can be applied also in other fields such as literature, marketing, advertising, websites, information materials, mobile applications, etc.

global marketing

Clear Definitions to Better Comprehend Transcreation

There is often confusion about what translation, localization, transcreation and copywriting mean:

  • Translation refers to the accurate conversion of content from one language to another. The translated content is very faithful to the source of the text without any changes being made to the message.

  • Localization goes beyond just translation. It adapts the text to better suit the local market. Moreover, it can include changing currencies and units of measurement.

  • Transcreation adapts content for a target audience. It brings together different aspects of writing. Therefore, it can include copywriting, localisation, font changes, image selection and other changes. These techniques are used to make the message relevant for the target audience.

  • Copywriting doesn’t involve adapting a source text at all. In fact, a copywriter will work from a brief and conduct research to write something brand new. Copywriters can be as creative as they want.

The Concept of Transcreation

The concept of transcreation arose between the 1960s and 1970s. That was due to the issues regarding the translation of entertainment products (books, films, etc.) from the source language to the target language. Industries started to use transcreation to go beyond literal translation in order to tailor the content to the target audience.

Why You Should Use Transcreation for Your Business:

  • It increases online engagement

  • It demonstrates a robust online presence

  • It raises brand awareness

  • It demonstrates cultural sensitivity

Epic Transcreation Fails

Sometimes marketers’ creativity ends up in bad campaigns that risk staining the reputation of the brand for many years. Let’s take into consideration some of the most bizarre transcreation fails.

transcreation fails

  • KFC expanded in China in the late 1980s. Consequently, the brand tried to translate its popular slogan “its finger lickin’ good” to better suit the Chinese market. The slogan was accidentally translated into “Eat your fingers off”. Luckily, this failure had no important consequences on the brand image.

  • Electrolux didn’t take into account American slang when translating its tagline. Thinking it was highlighting its vacuum’s power, the company chose the tagline “nothing sucks like ad Electrolux”. Unfortunately, the verb “to suck” in America is slang for being gross.

  • Pampers started selling diapers in Japan in the 1970s. Unfortunately, marketers did not take Japanese culture into consideration: they used an image of a stork delivering a baby on the cover of the pack. Parents were bewildered because in Japanese folklore babies are delivered on giant floating peaches.

Example of an Effective Transcreation

The adaptation into Italian of Norton’s taglines “Boldly Go” and “Go Boldly, not Blindly” represents an effective example of transcreation. There were three specific challenges to take into consideration when creating the Italian taglines:

  1. The cultural reference “Boldly Go” is perceived as a cultural reference, as it was part of the introductory speech at the beginning of every Star Trek episode. However, since in the Italian version of the speech the adverb “Boldly” had been left out, the reference was not used for the Italian tagline.

  2. The inspirational tone of voice The tone of voice of the tagline had to be preserved as it was meant to be a motto to encourage people to live an audacious life.

  3. The peculiar visual layout The layout hampered the Italian transcreation of the tagline, since the tick symbol inside the letter O had to be preserved.

Ultimately, “Punta in alto" (aim high) and “Punta in alto senza rischi” (aim high without risks) became Norton’s taglines for the Italian market.

In conclusion, every brand should include transcreation as part of the creative process when expanding in new countries. As a matter of fact, a company must be able to effectively convey cultural and emotional content into another target audience. This will increase not only its brand awareness but also its reputation.


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