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Why should you use transcreation in multilingual marketing?

When marketing in foreign languages, the message needs to be as clear and appealing as it is in the original language. This is why a direct translation isn’t always the best solution for translating marketing materials. Transcreation, or creative translation, serves localization needs in marketing.

In this blog article, we will explain why you should use transcreation in multilingual marketing. We also offer tips on what you should take into consideration when placing an order for a transcreation assignment.

What are the differences between translation and transcreation?

Translations are needed frequently when a company expands its international presence. There is a large number of translation needs related to products, services and the company. Direct translations are an obvious choice when localizing instruction manuals and other official documents into another language. The purpose of a direct translation is to convey the original message unchanged in another language. The content and message will remain nearly the same as in the source material. In localization, local aspects can be taken into consideration that may affect the content but don’t otherwise affect the project as a whole.


Translation needs also include the translation of marketing materials. In marketing, direct translations are not that effective, given that the purpose of marketing is to create and maintain mental images, in addition to communicating about the company. Creating mental images requires communication that appeals to the target group. The target group in another country may be demographically identical to that in the home market, but this doesn’t guarantee that the message will be equally effective. The message must be adjusted to the local target group.

Transcreation differs from translation and localization in the sense that the process is likely to generate entirely new material that may not be directly linked to the original material. Transcreation is creative translation, meaning that the source material serves only as a reference. Transcreation generates new material that takes the local target group into consideration while also creating the desired mental images.

For what purposes is transcreation used?

Companies’ slogans and catchphrases are probably the most visible examples of transcreation. In another language, a slogan may be completely different than in the original language. This is simply because the original expression doesn’t have the desired effect on the target group or in general. Sentences that rhyme are even more likely to lose their appeal when translated into another language. This is why we need the “creation” in transcreation. It helps us communicate the company’s message or a product’s benefits more effectively. Click here for excellent examples of transcreation.

The benefits of transcreation are not limited to the most visible material. Transcreation can be used in all media: radio advertisements, television advertisement voiceovers, print advertisements, websites, banner advertisements, etc. It’s effective in all communication where creativity is needed to reinforce the message. In addition, transcreation may be useful for coming up with names for products if the original product name turns out to be problematic in the target language. A knowledge of the local language and culture is important even in this case. Slang words and other locally established terms can be pitfalls—but they can also be excellent opportunities to make the message local.

Transcreation is mainly used for short texts, whereas localization is a better option for more extensive content. Producing new extensive content takes up resources and may even cause overlapping work if the company has previously produced corresponding content in its original language.

Who produces transcreation content?

The creators of transcreation content are, of course, professional linguists, but often they also have a background in copywriting, which provides them with strong skills in producing creative content. Transcreation content may also be produced by experienced marketing translators who have the professional skills needed for translating and also the talent for producing creative content.

Much like professional translators, transcreation professionals have a native-level command of the target language, in addition to being familiar with the local culture. They know how to take any local cultural requirements—such as taboos and problematic or embarrassing expressions—into account in devising creative translations.

What aspects should you specify in a transcreation assignment?

When placing an order for a transcreation assignment, it’s good to keep in mind that the process is markedly slower than a regular translation project. The preliminary work includes background research related to the competitive situation and terminology, for example. Producing the material may take two or three times as long as a regular translation project. Sufficient time must be allowed for creativity.

The briefing is the most important part of a transcreation process. It determines the framework for the material to be produced while also allowing space for creativity. A briefing for a transcreation project should cover at least the following aspects:

Target audience: whom we are speaking to

Determining the target audience is the most important part of a briefing. Who constitutes the desired target group? The precise definition of the target audience affects the content, so the target group should be carefully thought out.

Goal of the message or campaign

The second most important aspect is the goal of the message or campaign. Is it about brand communication, product communication or something else? Is the purpose to create a mental image of the company or product?

Tone of voice

The assignment should include information about the intended tone of voice to address the target group. The tone of voice plays an important role in creating mental images, so it should be thought about carefully. If the tone of voice is intended to remain the same throughout the content, be sure to communicate that when placing the order. If available, examples of the tone of voice used earlier, as well as previous communication, are highly useful.


Benefits for the customer or target group

In the briefing, it’s important to list all the benefits that the product or company offers to its customers or target group. Paying attention to this is particularly important when producing materials for marketing a product. A single benefit defined may be enough for creativity to flow freely. It’s good to remember that differing from the competition means standing out in the market. Precision in defining a benefit makes it easier to create more personalized messages.

Communication and distribution channels

The choice of medium is at least equally important as the aspects listed above. It’s important to know in which medium the message will be used. The choice of medium affects not only the content, but also the length of the material and the choices of words. In multichannel marketing, it’s important to keep the message consistent across the chosen channels. The choice of medium also affects the tone of voice to be used.


The briefing should include as much information as possible about the context. For example, any earlier reports on the competitive situation and competitors’ marketing efforts are very welcome. Further specifying the context of the intended message is also important. In addition, the briefing should include information about the color scheme or imagery to be used in connection with the message. Mismatches between images and copy are surprisingly common, which is why a profound understanding of the context is important. When specifying the context, no piece of information is too much information.

When you’re creating a brand image, it’s important to give examples of earlier communication so that the core message can be conveyed consistently in another language.

If the content is intended for a website, the information related to the context should focus on multilingual SEO. Ideally, the most important keywords are included in the briefing.

The purpose of context information is to help the transcreation professional with formulating a new message.

Important considerations for assignments

requesting several versions, the customer should ask for back translations (from the target language back into the original language) to ensure that the content is suitable. Requesting comments and rationale is also a good idea—that is, comments from the creator of the content on the choices of words. For wordplay and rhyming sentences in particular, this makes it much easier to get a general idea of the text than would a back translation, which may be confusing to read. For example, “green energy” means energy derived from vegetables in Chinese, instead of referring to environmentally friendly electricity production. In other words, the target language requires a completely different expression in some cases, and this should be explained to the customer so they can understand the transcreation content.

The notes may also include suggestions or suggested corrections concerning images or other aspects of the visual appearance. The ultimate purpose is to ensure that the text and images convey the same message. 

A transcreation professional is a global marketer's best friend

Internationalization requires localization and translation. However, these don’t serve marketing needs as effectively as transcreation. Effective marketing calls for a great deal of creativity, and this also applies to multilingual marketing. The spearhead message should be sharpened by means of transcreation to ensure that the target group is spoken to using the right message in the right way. A transcreation professional who can put the company’s message into words in another language is truly a marketer’s best friend.

Is your company looking for a translation partner for product marketing content? Is your company seeking a localization partner? Contact us, and our localization experts will help you choose the solutions that best meet your needs. Read our blog article on creating a multilingual marketing strategy.


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Antti Voutilainen

Antti Voutilainen

Antti Voutilainen works as a marketing content writer producing engaging and relevant content for our customers. His experience in customer service and sales has taught him how vital true customer insight and effective content marketing are today. Now his focus is only helping customer to find the perfect solution for their specific needs.

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