What is the difference between translation, transcreation and copywriting?

Posted: 11 Sep 2023

Translation vs transcreation, what’s the difference and how does copywriting work when it comes to new languages? Let’s get to grips with these strange words. 

I thought it would be useful to go through each of these marketing translation services, and share some examples of when you might need one or the other.

But before you contact your translation services provider to request that they specifically use translation, or transcreation, or copywriting for your next campaign, stop! Many marketing or advertising translation projects actually involve a combination of all these translation services, with some text and images requiring simple translation and localisation, whereas other parts may need original content written in your target language. Your translation partner will know what is most appropriate so don’t worry about making that call yourself. However, it’s useful to know what they’re talking about, so here’s a brief glossary:

Translation services

Marketing translation services take your source text and translate it into your target language remaining as true to the meaning of the original content as possible. Some localisation may also be necessary, for example by changing measurements into the preferred metric in that country (inches into centimetres etc.).

Translation is never as simple as just swapping one word in one language for another. It still needs to read fluently and not read as though it’s been translated. Take a look at these translation blunders for a word of warning. That said, your partner may suggest translation over transcreation if the source text is fairly generic, or if you’ve written it with an international audience in mind.

Bodies of text such as on websites, email campaigns, blogs, and product marketing material are ideal for this kind of translation service.


Transcreation tackles the message and feeling of copy. It’s translation + creation. With a more creative approach to translation, transcreation may be a better option for more emotive marketing content and advertising campaigns. For example, when translating a slogan directly it might not sound or feel quite right. Using transcreation allows you to remain faithful to the intent of the copy no matter what language it’s in.  This often happens if the source copy uses language-specific devices such as idioms, puns and humour, or cultural references that are intrinsic to the text but are not relevant in the target market. Transcreation recreates the copy so that it works in the target language and country, but still retains the conceptual elements that the campaign is built around.

Take Haribo for example. The famous slogan and jingle, “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”, is actually a transcreation from the German: “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso” (“Haribo makes children happy, and adults as well”).  Take a look at the advert below.

Transcreation suits text that contains emotional triggers and is designed to motivate, inspire and influence consumer behaviour. If you want to find out more about how transcreation works, take a look at our webinar: Creativity in translation – the process behind transcreation


Sometimes transcreation isn’t enough. The creative concept might be too far removed from the target audience that the campaign needs original copy written.

For this, you’ll require native-speaking copywriters that can write copy specifically for your target audience. They will have a deep understanding of your target market, your sector, and your brand; so that their copy seamlessly fits in with your brand identity and any other translated content. We used highly skilled linguists like these when translating children’s books for McDonald’s Happy Meals.

As you can see all these translation services are interlinked. However, when quoting on a marketing or advertising translation project, expect your provider to make a distinction between these services. There will be some differences cost-wise and so you’ll want to see this reflected in the quote.

We’ve created a free-to-download guide to support your next steps in your marketing translations journey. It’s packed with tips and advice!

For further info on how we can help you with your translation queries or requirements, please give our friendly team a call on +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email info@comtectranslations.com. We’re always happy to talk translation!