Digital Transcreation: Fitting Translations into Cultural and Emotional Context
May 16, 2023

Digital Transcreation: Fitting Translations into Cultural and Emotional Context

An enterprise can see enormous growth during and after an effective marketing campaign. It is because marketing, in general, heavily relies on language. Be it a script for a video advertisement or a written one, the language used is one of the most effective aspects of the campaign. However, for companies targeting an international market, the game significantly differs from catering to the local community.

The primary challenge for them is overcoming the barriers of cultural and phonetic differences between languages. A solution that enterprises are considering is transcreation.

What is transcreation?


The transcreation process ensures that the translated text evokes the same emotion as that of the source language. It also involves the use of certain tools to streamline the transcreation workflow.

The primary purpose of digital transcreation services is to align with the aims of a marketing copy while also connecting emotionally with the target demographic. After the transcreated copy is created, its performance in the marketing campaign is measured using digital metrics in the place of a native reader. Thus, one receives more objective feedback.

Digital transcreators use an amalgamation of several advertising resources like advertisements, call-to-actions, and more to align with the company’s brand. Therefore, it can offer both a return on investment given towards foreign advertisement and provide quality promotional content for the company.

A typical transcreation process involves:

  1. The creation of content in the source language
  2. An analysis of any content will help a marketing team determine what needs to be transcreated.
  3. Translation of content into the target language. Essentially, word for word translation takes place here.
  4. Creation of a content brief for a transcreation agency.
  5. Working with a native copywriter to create meaningful promotional content through transcreation

A tagline or copy may be effective in one language but almost indecipherable in another. An example of this is the Pepsi catchphrase—“Come alive with the Pepsi generation.” The translated tagline for the Chinese platform was, “Pepsi brings your ancestors from the grave”. Therefore, transcreating this would mean translating the emotion behind the statement rather than the words themselves.

How transcreation differs from translation


Often, companies tend to confuse translation with transcreation. However, the truth is that transcreation is essentially an extension of translation. However, to make the difference between the two terms more black and white, consider the following aspects:

  • Separate skills

Translators simply require language skills to translate. However, it is not the same for transcreation. In addition to being a language expert, these individuals are also copywriters or copy editors. As such, a video translation will undergo transcreation to adapt to a foreign market’s preferences.

  • Adaptation of culture

The effort that a company puts into adapting to the culture of its target market never goes in vain. The reason being that it is easier to evoke an emotional response from the audience when the content relates to something they already know. This could mean modifying the content as per their needs and backgrounds.

  • Contribution to branding

A good marketing campaign is a critical component of branding. Ensuring that all the promotional content involved in the campaign sends the right message is important. Therefore, transcreation allows a company to interact with an audience in a way that translation cannot.

  • Refraining from literal

As mentioned before, transcreation goes one step further than translation. This is because translators are satisfied with a literal interpretation of the content. On the other hand, transcreation involves adhering to a certain cultural context and not a literal translation.

Difference between transcreation and localization

Localization vs Translation

Localization is similar to transcreation and takes place along with the process of translation. It involves adopting a product, application, and even content according to the cultural preferences of the target demographic. The professional that carries out localization is a native speaker, as is the case in transcreation.

A great example of localization is the Coca Cola campaign, where each bottle had specific names like Mike, Sarah and others. However, to cater to the Irish public, Coca Cola used typical Irish names like Aoife, Oisin etc. Thus, they adhered to traditional Irish culture as well.

However, transcreation is the process that considers the emotional and socio-cultural side of each individual in the demographic. Therefore, it often requires revamping the entire brand of a company according to the preferences of the target demographic.

For example, Haribo’s catchphrase in English is “Kids and Grownups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”. For Germany, the slogan goes “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso”, which translates to “Haribo makes children happy, and grownups too.” Although it doesn’t sound very pleasing in English, it is extremely catchy in German. Thus, transcreation also uses native idioms and phrases to better connect with the audience.

Common practices in transcreation

  • Preserving the context

Transcreation keeps in mind the cultural context of the content. A cultural context is formed when the audience possesses a preconceived notion, and the lack of it can offend the audience. For example, the advertisement created by BMW for a UAE demographic showed the UAE football team singing the UAE anthem. However, once the players saw the BMW cars, they instantly ran to them. As a result, the government and the public thought this advertisement was offensive since it did not respect the anthem.

  • Using a creative brief

The creative brief is essentially what a company sends to a transcreation agency or a native copywriter. It consists of promotional content in the source language. In this brief, a company can also outline what kind of tone they are looking for. Thus, the transcreator will have a clear idea of what emotion needs to be conveyed.

  • Testing and surveying

Once the creative team has produced a finished product, the company should ensure that the transcreated content evokes the right response. To do this, the marketing team will carry out surveys, create focus groups, and test demographics. These resources will have measurable parameters to determine how effective the transcreation process was.

Transcreation in the digital realm


As mentioned before, transcreation is an important aspect of a company’s efforts to improve its digital presence. Top-flight companies that have websites or digital platforms arrange and translate their content in a manner that relates to the audience. For example, the interface in Netflix in Spain looks very different from the one in America. Viewers will find the platform more engaging if the TV shows and movies are in their native languages.

The process of transcreation is no longer restricted to the retail sector but is seeing increased application in the education sector. E-learning platforms have prospered in recent years, especially in their efforts to tap into a global market. A major contributor to this success is that these platforms have modelled their interface and content according to different geographic locations.

Digital transcreation is, essentially, a creative translation that has digitally measurable metrics. It is an essential process that helps corporations interact better with any audience irrespective of their culture and language. Thus, it gives a familiar voice to an otherwise foreign corporate entity.

Business Photos from Unsplash

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