Transcreation : A Must in Marketing Translation

arabic transcreation

“Transcreation” is increasingly used in the field of translation. But what does it mean, and in when do we use it?


It is the fusion between translation and creation. It could therefore be translated as “creative translation“. It is a translation process used mainly in the marketing and advertising sectors for the adaptation of slogans or promotional campaigns. In transcreation, emotion and tone take precedence over the text itself. We must therefore move away from the source text and let imagination speak.

The aim is not to translate the exact meaning, but to convey a concept or a feeling adapted to the target country and thus to generate attractive content for a specific audience.

Let’s take the example of slogans. A slogan consists of using very specific words. Inevitably, in almost 95% of cases, the literal translation of a slogan fails, or even leads to misinterpretations. One of the best examples of bad translation is the slogan of Electrolux, a Scandinavian vacuum cleaner manufacturer, destined for the United States: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” whose primary meaning is “Nothing aspires like an Electrolux”, yet having also a second slang meaning “Nothing is as bad / feared as an Electrolux”. 


Localization requires a larger process than transcreation. Localization involves the adaptation of an object (text, product, brand, software, etc.) to a given culture. It is not just a translation of a text, it can be the adaptation of a complete website, a technical documentation or packaging according to the cultural codes of the country. This can apply to the chosen colors, shapes, images … Localization often includes transcreation when the name of the brand, a slogan or other catchphrase need to be fully adapted. A well-known example is Coca-Cola in China, which, when launched, was written in such a way as to be pronounced “Kekukela”. But it also meant “wax-flattened mare,” or “bite the wax tadpole” according to the dialect, leading thus to poor results. After a long process of research and transcreation, the marketing team found a better phonetic equivalent that is “kokoukole” which means “happiness in the mouth”.

To transcreate, you must be a native translator of the target country, with proven linguistic expertise and cultural background and market history. But it is also essential to have advanced notions in marketing and advertising.

The work of transcreation can be done from the beginning of the development of the international strategy of a company. It can also be implemented later, during the period of product(s) export to overseas markets. In any case, it requires close collaboration with the marketing department of the company.

Although transcreation is not yet well known, it is increasingly present and has becomes an essential element of brand development on the international level.