What is transcreation?

Have you heard of transcreation but aren’t really sure what it is? Well, transcreation, or creative translation or international copy adaptation as you might have heard it be called, is the art of adapting a message from one language to another while keeping the key message, tone and style intact.

And transcreation really is an art. It is a complex process and normally comes with several obstacles to overcome. I recently managed a transcreation project for a leading drinks manufacturer and it got me to thinking about the complexities of transcreation.

How would Cheeky Wipes, an eco-friendly baby wipe manufacturer, communicate internationally with its slogan “Making a bum job better”? Simply translating it would leave its international consumers wondering about such an odd slogan.

The infamous, “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” would lose its poetry and rhyme if a literal translation was applied.

These are slogans which require transcreation rather than more straightforward translation. The process needs to be carried out by slick and creative copywriters who are, of course, native speakers of the language they are working into.

In 2008, Nintendo’s unique marketing strategy was awarded an Effie, one of the highest accolades in the marketing communications industry. The slogan? “Wii would like to play”. No longer exclusively targeting the teenage gamer, this slogan alone instead engaged with parents and grandparents, too. It invited the whole world to play.

True – a fantastic slogan for the English speaking markets. But what about the rest of the world? Is this a slogan that can be simply translated? In French for example, “Nous voudrions jouer” (we would like to play) doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? Transcreation would be key here.

So when preparing your slogans, straplines and advertising campaigns, be sure to speak to your translation agency about the transcreation service they offer. Ask for a few different options for each strapline or slogan and also back translations to ensure you can get a feel for each one. But remember, your international copywriters may well have to completely re-invent the slogan for your target markets to ensure that they will fit culturally but still deliver the same clever and key message that you had created in English.

And, just as you will have made a big investment in the creation of your English slogans, be prepared to put the same amount of dedication into your foreign language versions. The upfront costs may be slightly higher than for a standard translation, but I promise – it will pay dividends.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss a particular project, get in touch with the team on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681 or info@comtectranslations.com.

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