Developing a global marketing strategy involves building an understanding of what will and won’t work in other countries. Each culture has its own approach to marketing. Building a brand that works around the globe necessitates being intensely respectful of this. It involves understanding concepts such as localization and transcreation and then applying them correctly for each target audience, as well as engaging specialist marketing translation services to deliver content in the right language and dialect. This article on transcreation is a great starting point if you’re new to the term.

Translation, localization, and transcreation — which does my business need?

Marketing translation services deal with far more than just converting words from one language to another. A decent translation agency will also be able to advise clients on the suitability of their marketing copy for the target audience. That is, they won’t simply translate English to Spanish, but will also offer advice and guidance on how Spanish speakers in the relevant region tend to respond to the kind of marketing materials undergoing translation.

Reshaping those marketing materials to suit local preferences is a process known as localization. It is a key part of any successful global marketing endeavor. Localization involves changing not just the language of the materials, as translation does, but also ensuring that their content is suited to local cultural, political, moral, and religious sensibilities. The localization expert will flag up anything that is likely to cause offense or unintended humor if directly translated.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation, meanwhile, goes a step further. With transcreation, everything can change, from the brand’s colours to its strapline. Even the company logo and name may change as part of the process. If you’ve worked hard on your brand positioning in one country, it can be hard to let elements of that successful strategy go. Those who want to explore brand positioning more fully will benefit from reading this article on it.

Transcreation requires an approach of being open to completely reworking materials to prepare them for the international market — it’s a very different mindset from simply arranging for the translation of your documents.

There are a number of signs that transcreation might be required, rather than just translation and localization. We explore these in detail below.

How to build a brand when faced with significant cultural differences

Transcreation can sometimes feel like creating a brand from scratch, particularly when it involves creating a logo and rewriting all marketing materials. However, with transcreation, the purpose of the marketing materials has already been defined and the idea is to leave the new audience feeling the same thing that the original materials evoked in the original audience. The translation of that feeling is the ultimate goal of transcreation.

If your target audience has significant cultural differences to your original one, transcreation may well be necessary. What values does the brand represent? What is its ethos? If these won’t resonate with the new audience, it’s time for a major marketing overhaul rather than just a translation project.

Market globalization versus brand name

Your brand name can be another reason why transcreation is necessary. Even if your brand’s ethos and approach will be well-received overseas, the translation of brand names can sometimes lead to issues. Perhaps your brand name is a rude word in the target language, or perhaps it is an amusing slang term. In such cases, transcreation is essential. Be sure to check this with your translation company when first discussing your overseas marketing strategy.

When creating a logo becomes necessary

Logos can also cause headaches when it comes to marketing your brand overseas. Again, it’s worth asking your translation service for some advice here. Do the colours of your logo represent anything negative in the target culture? Are any symbols on it likely to be misinterpreted?

The London 2012 Olympic Games logo is an excellent example of this. Not only was it overwhelmingly criticized for being ugly, Iran claimed that the logo spelled ‘Zion’ and threatened to pull out of the games, while others interpreted it as a deconstructed swastika. Hardly, the translation of the Olympics’ spirit of inclusivity that the organizers were hoping for!

Using translation services to rework marketing copy

In other cases, it is the marketing copy itself that gives rise to the need for transcreation. If the direct translation of the marketing documents would simply fall flat with the intended audience due to cultural differences, it can sometimes be easier to start again than to keep trying to rework the copy in the hope of making a square peg fit a round hole. Some of the best marketing strategies used by top marketing companies have involved transcreation, so there’s no need to panic if your materials need to be reworked from the ground up.

Getting transcreation right

Transcreation can be an incredibly positive process. It’s important to embrace it as an exciting way to connect with new audiences and avoid being too precious about existing materials. It’s also essential to rely on the expertise of your translation, localization and transcreation specialists in order to get the very best out of the process.

Image source: Eddi Aguirre