Transcreation in Marketing: Go Global with Proper Localization

Translation & Localization15 October 20192.3k

It is generally accepted that marketing in the digital age is a mix of science and art.  At the same time, proper messaging is always the heart of any successful marketing effort. It is the message that hits or missed the mark, and it is the message that motivates a response.

Companies that achieve the goal of effective messaging in their native language have a unique and exciting opportunity in today’s global marketplace. In simplest terms, properly communicating the same message in other languages and market spaces creates significant new opportunities. Moreover, these opportunities may collectively be larger than that initial home-based market.

The Right Words Create the Right Messages

These realities have created an entirely new discipline for reaching global and non-native language markets. For example, an article in the Harvard Business Review makes a very cogent point. The reality is that simply “knowing Spanish” is not enough to successfully reach the Spanish-speaking market segment.

The idea of “transcreation” has reshaped the concept of merely translating marketing and corporate materials into another language. If the goal of any marketing message is to connect on an emotional level – and that is, indeed, the core goal – then the words used must more than mere translations of near meanings.

The concept of transcreation focuses on the ability to match cultural, emotional, motivational and subjective components of a message with similar content in a target language. This process involves far more than the literal conversion of the words involved.

Managing a Collaborative Process

Successful brands have an advantage when crossing borders or language barriers with an initial connection with prospects and customers. However, even these advantages become major disadvantages if the transcreation effort is handled poorly.

Marketing studies and university classrooms are replete with examples of such stumbles. Every consumer can think of some advertising or marketing they have encountered that came across as clumsy or even abrasive. Other examples might not be memorable for the very reason they weren’t noticed because of reliance on mere translation. That occurs when the essential emotional connection is “translated out” of the message.

Investing marketing spend in materials that lack that localized connection is like telling a joke and missing the punchline. More than failing to get a laugh, it shows ineptness and creates negative, rather than the desired positive, perceptions in the recipients.

Collaboration with the proper tools and team members in the translation/transcreation process is the only way to avoid these failed efforts. It is also the key to succeeding in achieving the same vibrancy and effectiveness of messaging from one culture and language to another.



Establishing the Expectations

You seek to globalize your market offerings to expand in existing markets or to open new opportunities. In either case, you will meet with much greater success if you establish a consistent process for achieving the same marketing effectiveness in each space. This will involve at least three components:

  • Publish a clear and definitive creative brief for your company and for each campaign. Use this brief to clearly communicate how your brand is communicated and positioned. Do you want your firm known as innovative, traditional, leading edge, low-key or trendy? Branding is all about answering those questions, and the answers should be communicated in the same way in each market
  • Focus on the goal of engagement, not the conversion of words. Work with local teams that provide feedback on how they perceive and respond to the proposed messaging. If their response and reactions are different from the original intent, the transcreation process has been incomplete.
  • Access existing tools in the marketplace, such as style guides and glossaries. Start with these but continually build your own list of idioms and culturally based terms and words that are specific in your market niche. For example, the concept of “fast” can be good or bad when used correctly or incorrectly when describing food, women or men, and cars. The precisely selected term for your product or service may require a different term or set of words than those provided by a literal translation.

Use the Responsiveness of Digital

One of the most powerful advantages of today’s digital marketplace is the ability to evaluate immediate feedback to your proposed messaging. The concepts of the Lean Startup Methodology encourage getting into the market and modifying as necessary.

When applied to the transcreation process, this encourages you to test your final product in the space you are targeting. If that initial effort garners the desired response, you have succeeded. If not, you have the freedom to tweak and modify to get that final voice and content that will deliver the return on investment you are seeking.

Need help with getting your transcreation done right? Contact us today for a quote.


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