Best Practices

What is Transcreation? How does it differ from traditional translation?

Although the global market has not been exactly stable in recent years, expanding into new markets and geographies is still at the top of priority lists for 36% of businesses. Translating is essential to any successful global expansion, and translation plays a vital role in this process.
Stefan M.
3 min

Although the global market has not been exactly stable in recent years, expanding into new markets and geographies is still at the top of priority lists for 36% of businesses. Translating is essential to any successful global expansion, and translation plays a vital role in this process.

But sometimes translations won’t do the trick – that’s where transcreation comes in. Unlike literal translation, transcreation considers the target audience's cultural context and local customs. It is a distinct translation process that reworks existing content, ensuring it resonates with its intended audience.

Today, we're going to discuss the transcreation process, look at some transcreation examples, and explore the benefits of transcreation.

What is Transcreation?

First, let's define transcreation: it is a term used in translation studies. It refers to creatively adapting content from the source language to the target language while maintaining the original's intended meaning, style, and tone.

The term itself is a blend of the words “translation” and “creation.” That means transcreation is a creative endeavor intended to be felt rather than provide direct, word-for-word translations.

The key purpose of the transcreation process is to retain the emotional impact of the original message of the text while adhering to the cultural nuances of the target audience. As such, it requires tremendous marketing knowledge and attention to detail.

Knowing the ins and outs of transcreation will help you better understand how to use it to further your business.

Transcreation in Business

Throughout the decades, transcreation has found its way into many different industries, and its utility can hardly be denied. Mostly used to optimize a company’s localization strategy, transcreation can make all the difference when used properly to promote your brand.

A 2020 study found that, out of 29 countries, 76% of consumers prefer purchasing from websites written in their native language.

Stats like these indicate that when a customer feels more familiar with a brand or company, they are more likely to buy from them. This places a big emphasis on the necessity of having a potent localization strategy.

Surely enough, three out of five marketing experts regard the lack of content localization as having a negative effect on B2C relationships.

But how exactly does transcreation help fine-tune a company’s marketing approach? Let’s find out!

Why is Transcreation Important?

Transcreation is a useful tool to have when forming your localization plan. Though it's only used in very specific situations, it's, nonetheless, an important part of marketing.

On the business side of things, transcreation can yield a myriad of benefits for your marketing strategy. Some of the most important ones are:

Raising Brand Awareness

One of the most obvious effects of transcreation is that it lets you reach out to a wider audience. As you break language barriers and clearly communicate your message, more people will become exposed to your brand.

Attracts Business Partners

As transcreation is very specialized work, employing it shows that you are a professional that takes marketing seriously. This aura of professionalism will inevitably interest your potential business partners in working with you.

Encourages Customer Loyalty

By demonstrating cultural sensitivity through your company's marketing message, you invoke a feeling of familiarity with your customers. A literal or direct translation simply

Transcreation vs. Translation

In the latter half of the 20th century, professional translators noticed the rising necessity of translating their content with more consideration toward cultural individualities. 

As a result, the term “transcreation” became part of popular parlance in order to differentiate this kind of work from more generalized translation services.

To illustrate this point, here are a few key markers of differentiation.


  • Transcreators are specialist copywriters. They are native to the target language.
  • Transcreation starts with a creative concept.
  • Transcreators have the freedom to rework content when necessary to retain the same impact in a different language.
  • Transcreators must consider all content elements, including its visual perception.


  • Translators are more knowledgeable in linguistics than in creative writing.
  • Translation begins with a source text.
  • Translators are given leeway but still must stick close to direct translation whenever possible.
  • Translators are only concerned with the text.

Transcreation and Creative Translation

Transcreation is also often used synonymously with creative translation. This is where we get into the nitty-gritty details of the words themselves.

While the two terms are a lot more similar than they are different, it's important to understand the distinction in professional parlance.

Creative translation generally refers to regular translation with more freedom to rework certain ideas. 

Transcreation, on the other hand, often includes complete reforging of content in order to have a bigger emotional impact on the targeted audience.

Examples of Transcreation

Whatever your mother tongue may be, chances are you have seen or heard transcreation in action at some point in your life. It’s those well-thought-off slogans that our minds automatically associate with the brand.

Take for example the McDonald's slogan. When preparing their Chinese marketing campaign, Mcdonald's made a smart move when they changed “I’m loving it!” to “I just like it”, for the Chinese-speaking audience.

In China, using the word “love” in casual, public discourse is considered inappropriate. The transcreation was a smart move on the part of Mcdonald's, and probably saved them a lot of money.

While it might not seem like much of a challenge to transcreate a slogan. There have been examples of big brands suffering huge losses by neglecting this part of their localization strategy.

Upon launching its Pajero model, Mitsubishi Motors saw disproportionately low sales in Spain when compared to other countries in the region. 

Not long after the release, the marketing team at Mitsubishi realized that “Pajero” is a curse word in Spanish. They quickly changed the name to “Montero” for the Spanish-speaking audience, but that point could repair only so much damage.

How is Transcreation Done

To best understand how transcreation can be useful for you and your businesses, knowing how it's done is helpful.

Just as with anything else, a good transcreation process has an effective start-to-finish workflow that follows certain steps. These steps can, of course, vary from company to company. However, the ones we are about to mention here are the most common.

Market Research

The first step in any successful localization strategy is research.

Adapting content to different languages and cultures is no easy task. For a transcreation process to be successful, you have to hold a firm understanding of your target market. 

Some things to consider are:

  • Linguistic nuance
  • Cultural norms
  • Current trends
  • Legalities

During this process, it's important to evaluate which parts of your marketing approach are likely to require transcreation. Making sure your translated content retains your company’s intended message can make or break your campaign.

Diligently researching your market will give you valuable insight into the mindset of your audiences. It helps you create a potent roadmap for your localization strategy and serves as the foundation of all future marketing operations

Budget and Deadline

Transcreation is a creative endeavor that requires the attention of a seasoned professional. As such, it's generally more expensive and time-consuming than conventional translation services.

From the very beginning, set your budget and deadlines in stone. Always keep in mind the possibility of needing to rewrite, rework, or rethink your transcreation based on the initial response from your audience.


The brief is intended to present a clear roadmap of the project to all relevant parties. Whether it's just one writer or an entire team, everyone should understand their respective roles and how they relate to the project as a whole.

Briefing generally involves a discussion of the topic idea, project guidelines, instructions, relevant information regarding the target audience, references and examples, and any related campaign assets.

This information allows transcreators to synthesize the information gathered during market research quickly. Afterward, they can begin the transcreation process without any delay.

Draft and Adapt

After the transcreators have been briefed and given sufficient time to complete their work, they will usually deliver a few different transcreated versions of your content. Think of these as a first draft for you to meditate on with your marketing team.

At this stage, it's very important to pay strict attention to nuance. Triple-check every variable. This is done to make sure the chosen material retains all of the important qualities of the original and can deliver the same emotional punch to your target market.

Companies use different methods of testing their drafts. Doing additional research and cross-referencing is one of them. However, things like surveys and consulting with native speakers is also an option.

This step is then repeated until you land on a satisfactory result. Whatever method you use, always give careful consideration before settling on a final version of the content.

Copywriting Versus Language Conversion

Transcreation is a very specialized type of work. As such, it should be used sparingly, only when needed. Think of it like a cherry on top of a cake.

Many inexperienced business owners make the mistake of treating transcreation as a remedy to low-quality translation. Needless to say, transcreation won’t turn a bad translation into a good one.

Good copywriting and quality translation are the backbone of a potent localization strategy. 

Transcreation should only be done in particular situations where even a great translation isn’t enough to emotionally impact your audience.

Where Can Transcreation Be Useful

According to Smartling, 94% of marketers surveyed in the United States and Europe reported having plans to invest more in their localization strategy.

As an intrinsically creative element of marketing, transcreation can be applied to any part of a marketing campaign. This can include slogans, advertisements, taglines, and commercials, just to name a few.

it's hard to place rules on what kind of content transcreation can or can’t be implemented. In the end, it does take a certain amount of intuition and marketing experience.

However, transcreation isn’t only limited to the field of marketing. In fact, many other industries can benefit from transcreation services. This can include law, healthcare, literature, entertainment, and many more.

Who Should You Hire For Transcreation Services

Overall, it's rare to see translation businesses or freelance translators offering transcreation services. As already mentioned, the difference is subtle but important.

As transcreation requires mastery of the target, local language in both the cultural and linguistic sense, you can see why a good transcreator can be hard to find.

To provide a general rule of thumb, here are some of the most important boxes to check when hiring a transcreator. The transcreator should:

  • Be a Native Speaker of the Target Language: Every language has nuances that are only felt by native speakers. it's next to impossible to find a non-native who is both an expert in the local language and a transcreator.
  • Reside in the Target Country: Culture, closely tied to language, has peculiarities and conventions. Trends come and go. For these reasons, it's important to have your transcreator reside in the target country together with your target audience.
  • Skilled in Marketing Translation: Of course, the transcreator needs to possess relevant marketing knowledge to do a successful job. Oftentimes, marketing translators make for excellent transcreators.

Calculating Transcreation Costs

When hiring a translator, the work is often charged by word or page. On average, translators will charge between $0.12 to $0.20 per word.

However, Transcreation projects are treated a bit differently. While word-for-word translation

Similar to hiring an artist or a writer, transcreation takes a lot of creativity. Becoming a competent transcreator can take years of study and practice. Successful transcreations take a lot of contemplation and artistic thinking.

For this reason, transcreation work is often charged with a flat price. In general, it's also more expensive to hire a transcreator than a translator.

As a side note, it's usually ill-advised to be frugal when hiring a transcreator. A good transcreation can make or break your marketing campaign. Whatever the initial investment, a good transcreation will always pay off in the end.

Check Out Our Bureau Works Localization Tools

We've answered "what is transcreation" and why it's important. Now you understand that a competent transcreation is a way to go when localizing your advertising and marketing copy for different cultures and languages.

At Bureau Works, we provide high-quality language conversion tools that ensure your marketing message is accurately and effectively conveyed in different countries.

Our intuitive platform offers a plethora of solutions that make your global marketing tasks a lot easier to manage. Repetitive processes, spreadsheets, and inefficient systems are a thing of the past.

Whatever the particular needs of your company may be, the Bureau Works team has got you covered! The best part: signing up is easy as one-two-three.

Ready to make your brand recognized in all corners of the globe? Let’s get started!

Stefan M.

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