Efua Aidoo

What is Transcreation? and Why Does Your Business Need It?

Transcreation sounds a bit like Frankenstein, doesn’t it? Like it might happen in a lab during a thunderstorm? 

Well, as the transcreation team at Social Chameleon can tell you, there may be no horror-movie-science involved but, if you are looking to work with an international audience, transcreation can certainly breathe life into your brand.

What is Transcreation?

At its heart, transcreation is about the art of marketing and messaging across cultures and languages.

The word is a merger between ‘translation’ and ‘creation’. It describes a process of interpreting a message into a new language and for a new audience in a way which preserves the emotional truth and the intention of the original.  

Done right, a transcreated campaign should leave audiences in every territory convinced that the message was created just for them. While also seamlessly conveying the same core message about the brand and creating a strong, consistent, international profile. 

At Social Chameleon we know that our transcreation clients need us to be experts in both language and marketing. Our team of over 20 translators and community managers have the skills to craft messages that speak authentically into markets around the world and to create campaigns with real, lasting resonance.

Transcreation v Translation

It’s tempting to think that transcreation is just a fancy version of translation, but it’s much more than that.

Translation starts with an already-created product, whether that’s the caption to an Instagram post, a video or a longer piece of text like a blog or news piece. 

You then pay an expert to go through the product and translate it into the language you need for your new market. Good translators don’t just give you a clunky word-for-word translation, they try and rework it so that the content reads naturally in the new language. However, just getting the content to make sense isn’t enough to mean that the translation will have the impact you need. That’s because every culture is unique, with its own sense of humour, references and taboos. Every language is unique too, with it’s own idioms and rhythms. 

That all means that trying to make a marketing campaign work in another territory using translated material is always going to be a tough ask. Successful marketing isn’t just about conveying information; it is about provoking a response. 

It isn’t enough for the audience just to be presented with the information that a particular brand of soft drink is low-calorie and that many people think it tastes nice. A good campaign will build in associations with hot summer evenings and glamorous people having fun. And, most importantly, make the target audience really want to pick the drink up off the supermarket shelf and buy it.

Crucially, although a brand may want to provoke the same action in every territory, that doesn’t mean they should go about it in the same way. A really successful campaign in one territory can fall flat, or worse be damaging for a brand, in another because the message is just wrong for that culture. 

Still confused? Let’s take a look at Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

The slogan “Just Do It” doesn’t have the same impact in foreign languages as it does in English.

For the Chinese market, they kept their slogan in English but brilliantly applied transcreation to their Chinese commercials by producing a series of marketing campaigns that communicate the intended meaning of “Just Do It” with visuals and words scripted to convey the meaning behind the slogan.

This is a great example of transcreation because Nike knows that to be a real global player, it needs to speak authentically to every market while remaining true to its brand and values. Check out the video ad here.

So, How Does Transcreation Work?

Brands who utilise transcreation know that the process of kicking off a campaign in a new territory doesn’t start with an existing message and a translator. Instead it starts with a creative brief.

The transcreation team needs to know what the brand is hoping to convey with its message. The emotion they want to transmit to the audience and, crucially, the action they want to prompt. They can then use their expertise and deep knowledge of the culture of the new market to craft a new message. This will have the same emotional core as the original but might use very different words and imagery to get there.

This means that the transcreation team you’ll be working with won’t just be translators. They’ll also be copywriters and marketers. The team will work with the brief and use the original campaign materials as inspiration to help them to understand the aims of each message. They will then create almost entirely new campaign messages in your chosen language. 

The transcreation team will also advise you on the look and feel of your campaign. Using that market awareness to make sure that everything is designed for maximum impact and helping you avoid mistakes that might damage your brand or confuse your customers. (When KFC launched in China, they could have done with getting some transcreation experts involved as they would have pointed out that the slogan, ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’, when translated into Chinese, read as the frankly grisly instruction to ‘Eat Your Fingers Off’!)

How Social Chameleon’s Transcreation Team Can Help Your Business

Building an international profile and reaching out into new markets is increasingly important for businesses. But like all new ventures, building your international profile comes with significant risks.

The last thing you want is for your entry into a new market to be so ill-judged as to poison that market for your brand in the future. Not to mention the fear of the international press picking up on any disasters and weakening your profile in your core market.

Working with Social Chameleon’s transcreation team will mitigate these risks. Our expert team has a proven track record of working with creative briefs and building strong messages. We can give you the assurance you need to be able to take the leap and get your brand out there into your target market. 

Strong, international brands understand the importance of crafting an authentic message for each territory, enabling them to target the consumers they want to turn into customers. Social Chameleon will work with your team to build trust and connection for your brand in new regions and across new cultures, helping to bring you success on a global scale. 

Want to know more about how transcreation could work for your brand? Get in touch

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