The importance of transcreation

We have all seen many instances of literal translations of slogans into foreign languages that just don’t work. Thankfully, transcreation can take care of this issue.  Transcreation (also referred to as “creative translation”) has been a hot topic in recent years, especially in the global market sector. It has been described as both the process of adapting precise brand content from one language into another and the transformation of an overall message which addresses written content, visual design and imagery. Standard translation and localization services don’t effectively preserve the creative and emotional intent of the content that allows it to best resonate in other languages and cultures.

Although it is a term mainly used by advertising and marketing professionals to refer to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, many localization vendors are now offering it as one of their client services.  In other words, translation is to transcreation what writing is to copyediting.  Simply put, it is a way of conveying the same message put forth by the source text to target audiences in language that the target audiences readily understand.

However, transcreation can be a difficult process. Working on the client-side of localization many years ago, we marketed to a younger audience and words like “phat” were used.  I remember thinking how are we going to convey what “phat” (depending on the source, it means “excellent”, or “very cool” or to others, it is an acronym for “pretty hot and tempting”) means in Sweden.  This is part of the process of transcreation; in this case, finding the equivalent of what “phat” conveys in English in Swedish. Simply using the word “phat” (unless commonly used in English) will just not work and the proper message will not be conveyed.

The well-known slogan for McDonald’s is “I’m loving it”.  This works fine for America where we “love” our shoes, our pets, our husbands, our girlfriends, our favorite movie, etc. The same word is used for the love for all of those things. However, in Chinese, the word “love” is used only for deep, meaningful love so the slogan in Chinese translates as “I just like it”.

Another difficulty faced is that many client logos contain puns and since logos are not to be translated, these puns are not easily understood by the end users.  Clients should keep this in mind (if going global) when creating their logos.

Spiderman India is a well-known example of transcreation and the first of its kind where a Western property is rewritten and rebranded.  The name Peter Parker was changed to the more ethic-sounding Pavitr Prabhakar and instead of chasing the Green Goblin, he chases a demon known as Rahshasa.

To find out more about transcreation and whether your product requires it, please contact ABLE Innovations today to speak to one of our seasoned professionals.