Transcreation vs. Translation: Which One Is Right for You?

Merely translating your marketing campaign word for word to stay true to the original message might not do you any good when localizing your business. It might even jeopardize your whole efforts.

This was the case with Puma’s limited edition trainers that were launched to commemorate UAE’s National Day.

The Speed Cat shoes featured the colors of the UAE flag but they sparked outrage among Emiratis who were offended to see their flag depicted on shoes. Simply because shoes are held in low esteem not only in UAE but in the whole Middle East.

Puma removed them quickly after, as soon as they realized how culturally insensitive it had been.

Although Puma’s case is not about translating content, it still shows how ignoring the culture of the target audience can set your marketing campaign to failure. Many companies make that mistake, self-inflicting higher costs and a lower ROI.

Understanding the difference between transcreation and translation can help you avoid this hassle. In this article, you’ll discover the difference between the two, which one you need, and how to choose the right language service provider.

Transcreation vs. Translation: Definitions and Main Elements

The most common misconception is defining the word “translate†as the literal conversion of words from one language to another and transcreation as creative translation.

One of the key talents of professional translators is being able to pick the best corresponding words while preserving the original text’s meaning and emotional tone. And that needs a ton of creativity.

The most common misconception is defining the word “translate†as the literal conversion of words from one language to another and transcreation as creative translation.

One of the key talents of professional translators is being able to pick the best corresponding words while preserving the original text’s meaning and emotional tone. And that needs a ton of creativity.

What’s Translation?

According to the Oxford dictionary, translation is the process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language. When the source text from one language is translated into another target language, the original message should be maintained.

The most important task is to understand the purpose of the original text and convey it to readers in the target language.

Here, creative freedom depends on the format and type of text. For example, while fiction allows more artistic freedom since it’s supposed to evoke more feelings, technical fields are more akin to word-for-word translation.

Even in technical fields, where language is neutral, you may have tens of synonyms for the same word. That’s when the translator applies their skills and makes the best choice. As a result, as they say, no two translators will ever translate the same sentence exactly the same.

Luckily, today there are numerous programs, tools, and software that can help professional translators to automate parts of their work and help them focus on more important tasks such as language tone and style.

What’s Transcreation?

Transcreation is the translation of advertising and marketing materials by multilingual wordsmith copywriters to warm up the target audience and inspire them to click, engage, and take action.

While translation must remain true to the source text, transcreation projects allow for more creative freedom because the end goal is far more important than the words themselves. This means that, during transcreation, wording and messages from the source text may change to accommodate the new local needs.

Thus, rather than retaining the same exact wording, the goal is to elicit the desired response from the target audience or entice them to take the necessary action.

Take Apple, for instance. The iconic brand advertised the smallest mp3 player, the iPod Shuffle using the slogan Small Talk. But since small talk doesn’t have a translation in most languages, let alone one that would also imply the size of the product, Apple came across a localization problem.

But, the team was bold enough to rephrase and change the meaning of the slogan in different languages:

  • French – Donnez-liu de la voix (Let him speak)
  • Spanish – Ya sabe hablar! (He can already talk) 

As such, transcreation can involve rethinking the whole content, even its structure and presentation, and coming up with the best way to present the same marketing material to a new market. Another great example is Coca-Cola’s campaign Share a Coke, where they included local names in each bottle of Coke, de-Americanizing the brand and allowing people to personalize the product. People loved it, the brand ran the campaign in 70 countries and won 7 awards at the Cannes Lions festival.

4 Key Differences Between Transcreation and Translation

  • Translators vs. Transcreators

As previously stated, transcreation is the process of converting advertising and marketing materials from one language to another by combining transcreation and copywriting skills. So, it requires not just a professional translator but one that has a solid copywriting, marketing, and SEO background.

A transcreator should be a writer at heart who knows how to write a copy that sells. Additionally, digital transcreation involves modifying the text for local SEO keywords and selecting the words that will best appeal to theaudience. The transcreation expert should be aware of what questions the audience would pose to Google and how they would phrase them in the target language.

  • Original Text vs. Transcreation Brief

In most translation projects, the only material is the source files along with any glossaries with technical terms or standard specifications for the relevant field. Transcreation, on the other hand, requires a separate brief explaining the project more in-depth and clarifying its purpose. The brief includes the source files together with an explanation of the purpose, what the campaign wants to communicate, and the choice of visuals. If the marketing campaign includes wordplays or cultural symbols, their meaning should also be communicated to the transcreation experts.For example, the marketing campaign would differ in the case of a popular brand or product from one which is considered a novelty in the target market.Still not sure how to create a marketing brief? Download our guide now and learn all the details.

  • Cost: Per Word vs. Fixed Price vs. Hourly Rate

Translation projects are commonly and frequently priced based on word count. Transcreation, on the other hand, has two other charging options because it requires more market research, brainstorming, and creative work.First, the language service provider may request a fixed price for the entire project from beginning to end; second, they may offer an hourly rate payment based on an estimated hour count.Overall, transcreation may relatively cost higher than translation services because, as previously stated, it requires more skills and expertise than simply translating an original textfrom one language to another.However, this may be the only hiccup along the way of transcreation, since it really does cut costs in the long term and increase ROI.

  • Different Project Time Spans

Transcreation takes longer because a significant amount of time is spent prior to the actual transcreation work creating the brief and preparing all of the materials required. Unlike translation, where the source material is essential, a transcreation project may not require source material at all.As such, if you want to expand your business into a new market and need to translate your product descriptions as well as run ads for them, you can hire a team of transcreation experts who can create new content in multiple target languages from scratch. This also affects the length of a transcreation project since they require more research and creative work.

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What’s The Need For Transcreation When We Have Translation Services?

Brand content and marketing materials send complex messages that try to pursue people to act a certain way. Thus, the chosen words, format, fonts, and visuals are not random rather they all play a role in reaching the intended goal.

Any business converting its products and offers to foreign markets needs to evaluate its branding and marketing strategy to attract more customers. For example, you might need transcreation if you have these goals:

  • Raise brand awareness 
  • Attract new customers
  • Show existing customers you’re expanding
  • Demonstrate cultural sensitivity

However, you probably don’t have enough in-house resources to determine whether your campaign or content would perform similarly abroad with only translation. That’s why, in order to properly localize your business, you should consult with a local translation and localization company on when to use transcreation.

How to Know If You Need Transcreation or Translation Services?

Chances are, if your text is commercial and has marketing purposes, you’ll need a transcreation service or a sort of marketing translation service. Otherwise, if you have technical documents or other documents with informational and educational purposes most probably translation services will be enough.

Here’s the list of the most common formats of content that need transcreation:

  • Highly Creative Content Used for Marketing Purposes

Expanding into a new market necessitates a shift in marketing strategy since the audience characteristics may change as well. For example, a business related to marriage would have different target audiences in different countries because people in India marry mostly in their 20s meanwhile in Sweden marry in their late 30s.

  • Digital Content: Websites, Landing Pages, etc.

Websites are the digital introduction to your business, and just translating them word for word can backfire. Most websites will need transcreation, or even working on it from scratch with native experts. Visuals might not be adequate, or the products might need more introduction in certain countries.

  • Slogans, Taglines, and Brand Names

Slogans, taglines, brand names, short ads, and other short content convey a lot in only a few words. If translated word for word, most of the persuasive as well as aesthetic power would be lost. Therefore, it would be preferable to find the equivalent phrase in the target language rather than maintaining the meaning.

3 Things To Consider When Hiring Transcreation Services

1. Team of Copywriters and Marketing Experts

Transcreation experts are a mix of copywriters who understand the craft of effective writing and translators who possess knowledge of the target language. They are allowed some creative freedom and can come up with original ideas so make sure to choose well since they’ll be handling a very important part of the localization of your marketing campaigns. With many products and services solving the same problems, you get a competitive edge if you fuse your product advantages with local cultural values. By speaking in your target audience‘s language using words, symbols, and motives they understand, you’ll have it easier to persuade them to act upon any CTA.

2. Native Speakers Who Live in the Regions You Are Targeting

One of the most important factors determining success in localization is the ability to evoke enthusiasm and interest in the target market. This connection cannot happen without understanding the cultural and social context which you can get only through hiring native in-country experts. The transcreation experts must be familiar with the local market and have in-depth knowledge of the sector, industry, and local culture. So they should be able to come up with a creative copy as well as know what sells in a specific market.

3. The Language Service Provider Should Be in the Country

Hiring native experts is not enough, you need to have access to local market insight and be aware of cultural patterns. That’s why your best choice is a transcreation service provider based in the same location you’re looking to expand. Running the wrong marketing campaign at the wrong social or political time can devastate your efforts to localize your business. Read more marketing transcreation tips to quickly upscale your business in new foreign markets.


Transcreation and translation are critical components of localization. While translation preserves the meaning and exact message, transcreation involves rewriting and adapting the marketing materials to elicit emotions with a strong call to action.It is normal to not know which one your business requires at which stage; however, hiring a native team of experts can help you achieve your objectives with ease. At Laoret, we’re available 24/7 to help you understand each step of the way. Click here to request a quote now.

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