Marketing Translation vs. Transcreation?

You’ve just spent a lot of time and money on a new marketing campaign that is creative, witty and exactly captures your company’s brand message. You’ve tested and launched it in your home market and now you want to extend the campaign to other countries. How do you ensure that your core message is successfully captured in other languages? Is a standard translation process good enough for this purpose?


Marketing translation is a hybrid translation process. Translators are given instructions to focus on the source content, adapting or localizing cultural references, humor, idioms and slang only to the extent allowed by the source. Marketing translation is typically performed for more technical pieces such as catalogs, brochures, and sales sheets or for factual presentations and press releases. For marketing translations many language service providers (LSP) will use teams of translators who represent both the necessary subject matter expertise as well as marketing experience.


Transcreation differs significantly from the translation process: it doesn’t focus on the source text but rather on the concept or message and involves recreating this message in another language, for a different culture or target market. Transcreation is typically performed by multilingual copywriters or linguists specialized in marketing and is recommended for branded messaging: tag lines, slogans, product names, websites, multimedia, and video scripts. Just as the original marketing team needed time to discuss, create, and test the original message, linguists involved in transcreation need to collaborate with client-side marketing teams or agencies to thoroughly understand the marketing message and desired outcome up front and then at the back end to present and explain the transcreated results. Transcreation normally involves more steps, time and money than a marketing translation process, especially when the marketing message is short but far from simple. Taglines and marketing slogans are a good example. Translation of 3-5 words would normally cost pennies and be delivered immediately. Transcreation of a 3-word tagline, however, would be measured in weeks and charged by the hour.


Not all marketing campaigns are highly creative and the need for transcreation instead of marketing translation is not always obvious. Here are some of the aspects to consider in making this decision:

  • Who is the target audience? Are they likely unfamiliar with the language and culture of the source content? Is the intended target market of significant size and value for your company and worth the extra time and money to ensure successful messaging?
  • What is the content type? Is it highly figurative and abstract? Does the source message extend beyond the meaning of the written words?
  • What style is used? Are puns, idioms, or slang used? Does the content use any evolving, trendy language?
  • Are visual images included? Are the images culture-dependent? Do they require adaptation for other markets?

On receipt of a marketing project request, a good LSP will review the source content to determine the appropriate process: marketing translation or transcreation. If transcreation appears to be needed, a good LSP will interact with the client’s marketing team to document the intended goals of the message in a creative brief. Based on this creative brief and using the source text as a reference, the copywriter- linguists will “transcreate” the message to produce target language content that triggers the same emotional reactions as the original content. The results – often multiple alternatives, with back-translations and cultural explanations as appropriate – can then be discussed with client-side marketing teams and local stakeholders to ensure success.

Would you like more information or have a marketing project you’d like to discuss? Contact Ingenuiti today. We’d be happy to answer any of your questions and walk you through project steps in further detail.