Copywriters use a variety of stylistic devices to create catchy and effective marketing messages. Most of the time, though, these devices only work in the source language and can easily get lost in translation. This is where transcreation or creative translation comes into play.
The most successful global companies have one thing in common: they all take localization seriously. It is what enables them to give their products that much-needed local feel required to make the connection with the target audiences, while at the same time preserving their instantly recognizable universal branding. Creative translation is a particular aspect of localization that combines the science of translation with the art of interpretation, with the goal of communicating the intended meaning of your message across vastly different linguistic and cultural environments.
Creative translation – taking localization a step further
Transcreation cuts through localization, translation and cultural adaptation to communicate the style, rhythm, vividness and intent of the source material on the foreign markets. For example, will the meaning and the sound of the rhyming adjective true-blue remain the same if the phrase is simply translated to, say, Russian? Not very likely. And in the event the phrase is used deliberately because blue colour is important for branding/marketing campaign, we will have to find a linguistic solution that will preserve the intent, style and meaning of the original phrase and yet work on the target market.
Perhaps the most well-known example of successful transcreation comes from the automotive industry – Mitsubishi famously rebranded their SUV Pajero to Montero on the Spanish-speaking markets because the word has a negative connotation in Spanish, being fully aware of the damage it would cause of those markets, although it may sound exotic and powerful in the rest of the world (it is actually named after the Pampas cat, Leopardus pajeros). Just for the record – the same SUV was named Shogun in the UK.
This example also shows another, extremely important aspect of transcreation and that is the damage prevention. A word that may be right in one culture may completely backfire or flop in another culture, and the results of that honest mistake may truly be disastrous. In this regard, transcreation is something of a safety device.
When do I need transcreation?
The simple answer is whenever you’ve employed a creative copywriter to convey a concept or motivate your audience into action. Transcreation is the only way to preserve the creative investment you’ve made in your original text and ensure that localized versions are both culturally sensitive and relevant to your target audience. As a client, you need to provide your provider of linguistic solutions with as much information about the purpose, target audience and esthetic features of your source materials as possible – and enjoy the benefits of transcreation afterwards.