In recent times, you may have seen the word ‘transcreation’ bandied around by marketing and translation companies alike. There is no dictionary definition of the word – yet. So what exactly is this new-fangled phenomenon? And why should you be bothered anyway?
It is common knowledge that an increasingly globalized market has opened up new avenues for international companies. But targeting different markets brings with it new challenges. Just how do you reach out to that market, interact with it and form a relationship that will incite increased consumer interest? How does your company, whether big or small, really tap into the full potential of foreign markets?
Bring in transcreation. Unlike more traditional forms of text translation, transcreation is not about being faithful to the words as they are written on the page, but to the essence of their meaning. As a form of creative adaptation of all aspects of copy from words, images and meaning to the actual layout of the text, transcreation adapts the original, or, in some cases, does away with it entirely whilst maintaining the essence of what the company wishes to achieve. Transcreation is all about creating the desired persuasive effect on the target audience. It is a form of message interpretation if you like, where the ideas behind the message are taken in, chewed over, and thrown out in a totally different form for a new target audience.
Why is it becoming more popular?
Transcreation does not just benefit companies looking to explore new markets. It is also becoming more and more of a reality for those companies already operating within a country. Instead of global marketing strategies with the same campaign translated into several languages, companies are increasingly reaping the benefits of adapting marketing, sales and advertising copy in the target language to suit the target audience. More and more companies, both well-known and those that are less so, are exploring the opportunities that transcreation opens up for them in terms of creating desired relationships with the target audience.
In this vein of thought, there are a few now infamous marketing disasters that would have benefited from this approach, where the literal translation of advertisements resulted in rather unfortunate and undesired effects in the target language. Take the Electrolux campaign in the US which claimed that “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux!” or the KFC tagline “Finger Lickin’ Good” which literally invited consumers in China to “Eat Your Fingers Off”. Although humorous, such errors can have huge and detrimental consequences for a company, not to mention the financial losses of a fruitless ad campaign. Such errors could have easily been avoided had they employed a professional linguist with an understanding not just of the language, but of the target culture. But the examples above would have perhaps benefited from a different strategy entirely; an ad campaign that may be a huge success in one culture might be a total flop in another, even if language blunders are avoided. What would have proved invaluable in such cases would have been a native linguist with an understanding of marketing and advertising.
Transcreation requires skills that go beyond linguistic capabilities in the target language. As a form of translation characterised by its target audience orientation, the translator, or ‘transcreator’, entrusted with such a role becomes part of the marketing process, essentially assuming the role of an in-language copywriter. Transcreation specialists will therefore often have a background in marketing or advertising, and, even more essentially, will understand both the target audience and the aims and objectives of the company, the responses they desire from consumers, and the image the company wishes to portray.
When it comes to translating marketing and advertising material, the creative element gains much greater significance due to the translated-text’s aim. A marketing or advertising campaign aims to persuade, alter opinions, promote a certain viewpoint and make the consumer buy into that view point; it wants to appeal to the reader in some way or other, to persuade the reader to act in a certain way. This type of text should produce the same desired response in the target reader as it does in the reader of the original. A successful ‘translation’ should therefore adapt to the target audience with the aim of creating some sort of equivalent effect amongst target language readers. Simple ‘translation’ is therefore just not possible. And this is where the difficulty comes in.
A phrase, an image, an idea that works in one language often won’t have the same impact in another. Why not, then, adapt the essence of the idea, make it appropriate and appealing to a local market? Why not reap the benefits of targeting local markets and making them feel like they truly understand your brand? Or rather, like you truly understand them.
But is it really going to catch on?
Well, the simple answer: it already is. Transcreation is indeed a more time-consuming operation due to the creative process. And yes, it may well be a little more costly than simply translating a text. But the end result is an adapted text that really taps into the desired market, a text that is as effective and persuasive as the original. Transcreation is a means of extending the creative investment that you have made in the original text, ensuring that localized versions are both culturally sensitive and relevant to your target audience.
Go on, give it a whirl… you never know where it may take you and your business.