Best Practices

What Is Transcreation? And Is It Better Than Translation?

When most clients ask for transcreation, what they need is high-quality translation. You should expect the translated content to be idiomatic, fluid, and nuanced—to sound natural in the target locale. That’s how good translation looks and feels.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

When most clients ask for transcreation, what they need is high-quality translation. You should expect the translated content to be idiomatic, fluid, and nuanced—to sound natural in the target locale. That’s how good translation looks and feels. Within the context of a content localization management system, high-quality translation results from high-quality support technology. Style guides, terminology management procedures, and brand resources contribute to translation sounding entirely local and will generate more leads.On the other hand, transcreation is something entirely different—and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for transcreation when excellent localization will do. Below, we’re answering frequently asked questions about transcreation, including what is transcreation, so you can invest wisely in services that will drive a higher ROI for your global marketing campaign.

What is Transcreation?

Transcreation is the practice of taking source material and adapting or recreating it within the context of a target language, ensuring that the core message evokes an ideal emotional response in the local audience. Emotional impact is the ultimate priority here, and that’s one reason why transcreation is so popular in the marketing translation space. It’s most often used to adapt campaign or brand taglines to be more appropriate for local audiences worldwide.Though the word “transcreation” sounds similar to many other terms in the localization glossary, this distinction sets it apart from most LSPs’ primary services. Transcreation takes significant artistic liberties with your content, sometimes deviating from it entirely to increase potential conversions. Unfortunately, transcreation is one of the most expensive ways to prep your content for an international audience.

You shouldn’t have to pay a premium for transcreation when excellent localization will do.

How Is Transcreation Different from Translation?

First, transcreation could be seen more as copywriting than as translation. It’s a service performed primarily by in-market writers, not linguists. Writers take your source material, in addition to other creative resources, and transform your marketing slogan or tagline into something entirely new (but equally salient) in their native language. That’s why transcreation is often synonymized with “cross-market copywriting” and “international copy adaptation.”Example: Spider-Man India remains one of the best examples of successful transcreation to date. Gotham Entertainment Group collaborated with Marvel Comics in 2004 to bring Spider-Man to South Asia—with a few significant twists. Spider-Man is now a native-born Indian by the name of Pavitr Prabhakar. He wears a dhoti and battles man-eating Rakshasa demons from Hindu mythological fame. Spider-Man India is essentially a reinvention of the original Spider-Man comic—which is exactly what happens during the transcreation process for all content, from video games to car models.Transcreation also differs from translation in total cost, as well as in the way services are billed. Like copywriting, transcreation providers often charge by the hour or the project—not by the word. Regardless of the pricing structure, the cost for transcreation is usually much higher than translation. Translators typically charge a stable per-word rate. In contrast, transcreation providers often cite their work’s creative, artistic, and involved nature to justify charging a steep premium for their services.



  • Takes source material and recreates it within the context of a target language
  • Allow significant artistic liberties and content deviation
  • Often more expensive than translation
  • Adapts source material by translating original context to the target language
  • Must stick to the source material or the closest relatable definition
  • Often less expensive than transcreation

When Is Transcreation Necessary?

The first big question from most is, “What is transcreation?” The second is “Why is it necessary?” Transcreation is a specialty service, and most experienced companies treat it as such. We recommend using transcreation sparingly. High-quality translation is the standard for most content, from marketing copy to software interfaces, and should form the backbone of your localization strategy. If you’re displeased with unnatural-sounding or error-filled translations from your current LSP, it’s time to get a better team of linguists—not to invest in transcreation. In fact, in some cases, transcreation and translation are both unnecessary. Smart localizers know that certain content types, locales, and target languages wouldn’t be worth the spend either way. In those cases, locally-sourced content could be much more effective. Alternatively, the source material would have just as much impact in English.Example: Check out Nike’s compelling commercial for the Chinese market. Their iconic slogan “Just Do It” doesn’t translate well in Mandarin, so the local marketing team wrote an entire Mandarin script featuring the “do it” verb and filmed a commercial with a massive cast of locals. The result is an inspiring ride, ending with the “Just Do It” tagline in English as the mic-drop finale.We recommend investing in transcreation as a last resort: for particular, crucial content where the excellent translation doesn’t have the right impact. But don’t pay to transcreate 5,000 strings off-hand just because you’re experiencing poor translation results.

How Can I Maximize My Global Content ROI?

The short answer is to evaluate everything, localize most of it, and transcreate a small percentage of what can’t be translated effectively.In actuality, maximizing ROI with global marketing content is difficult. Like with social media localization, many completed assets don’t pull enough value to justify the expense of translating them. Even when localizing most of your content with great translators, you need to make sure you’re running an optimized localization process set up to maximize your return.A comprehensive localization platform makes marketing localization a much more efficient and cost-effective venture. Automation technologies work together to eliminate redundancies and save resources, with AI stepping in to fill most of the paper-pushing duties of a project manager. Built-in tools for terminology management, in-country review, and multimedia QA streamline the localization process and lead to higher-quality results. If you’re looking for a way to make localization more profitable, this is it.A great localization system (backed by top-notch translators) provides everything you need to reach a global audience with content that converts. Most companies won’t need specialized transcreation services—but if you’ve learned what transcreation is and feel you do, use them to supplement an already-awesome localization engine.Bureau Works is an industry-leading localization platform that combines the power of automation with the craft of human innovation. We designed our software and back-end services to create high-quality results, so services like transcreation are hardly necessary. Contact our team to learn more about how BWX is changing the game for our partners worldwide.

Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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