Transcreation: Definition, Examples, and Why it is Different from Translation?


what is Transcreation?

It is the creative translation of marketing material, such as slogans and advertisements, from one language to another to achieve the goal of the original text.

It is not a standard translation process, as transcreation involves more creative work.

Standard and direct translation is about transferring and sticking to the meaning of the source text. This happens by using the standard translation of words and sentences in the original text. Of course, I am not referring to literal translation. The standard translation should follow the source text and has limited options to deviate from it.

With transcreation, linguists or translators have much more space to deviate from the source. Their main job is to convey the message of the source marketing text, even if the target language text deviates from the source language

Transcreation is Different from Translation and localization

Translation means translating the words from one language to another. The translator has to add their own skills to keep the essence of what the author originally says. As a result, no two translators will produce the same translated text, although both are right.

Transcreation means translating and recreating the original content in a new form while keeping its intent and context. This should be done by honouring the cultural and social norms of your target audience. The person doing the transcreation can be free to make significant changes in order to keep the style unchanged. 

Localization, on the other hand, is much more complicated. It is the process of adapting your web content to be more appealing for local consumption. It involves changing the source language to be more appropriate for customers’ cultural preferences.

As you can see these are totally different language services. Each one is more appropriate than the other in certain scenarios.

Common mistakes companies make:

there is a repeating case that happens with us when a client sends us a project that requires transcreation. when we look at the text, we realise it just needs creative translation, not transcreation. This is common for example for press releases. This type of text only requires creative translation, or what we sometimes call it marketing translation as it just conveys information, not a marketing message. So, please always check with your translation services provider about the most appropriate services needed for your content.

What Parts of the Your Marketing Campaign Need Transcreation?

Transcreation can be done in all parts of a marketing campaign, such as taglines, ads, slogans, etc. By understanding the targeted audience and not just the region, transcreation can be the best marketing tool if the company wants to go global. Transcreation analyzes the consumers’ needs and expectations. For example, different images, models, even graphics can be used to appeal to consumers in different communities and societies. Understanding cultural references and taboos can greatly affect the success of a marketing campaign. Idioms and jokes have to be adapted. Choosing the right celebrity to endorse the product is so important. 

YouTube video
This is a quick video I made to define transcreation briefly.

Transcreation Examples: Black Friday vs. White Friday and More

Here is a true story that represents a great example of transcreation.

I was talking with my wife about my need to buy some tools, and here is how the conversation went:

Me: I will buy some stuff for my business, but I will wait for Black Friday discounts.

My wife: You mean White Friday discounts?

Me: No, I meant Black Friday.

My Wife: I never heard of Black Friday in Egypt.

Me: In the United States they call it Black Friday, but in Egypt and the Arab world they call it White Friday in most cases.

Turning Black Friday into White Friday is an obvious example of transcreation and why it is important for companies who want to translate their marketing material.

But why do Arabs call this huge sales day “White” and not “Black”?

The word “black” in Arabic triggers feelings of sadness and mourning. Women in the Arab world wear black clothes to express grief and sorrow.

If you are visiting someone who is seriously sick, usually people in the Arab world wear dark clothes on purpose, such as black and dark blue.

So, black in Arabic does not refer to happiness or joy. There is always something bad happening.

In order to make sense to the people in the Arab market, “Black Friday” was translated as “White Friday”

This is a clear way of avoiding literal translation and using transcreation for marketing campaigns.

Samsung S6 Ads Translation: a Bold Transcreation Example

Another great example is the translation of the Samsung S6 smartphone into Arabic.

The English phrase said “Next is now”, while the Arabic translation is “سابق عصره”, which means “Beyond the Present”.

The core message of “Next is now” is that the S6 smartphone is using technology no one else is using now because it is the technology of the future.

The Arabic sentence “سابق عصره” or “Beyond the Present” is not only keeping the core message of the English text, but it is a common phrase in Arabic that has the same message. By using such a common phrase, the Arabic text would look like it was written for the Arab world, not just a translation of another English phrase.

Other Examples of Transcreation

  • Mitsubishi Motors failed to make any sales when it launched its Pajero model in Spain. This is because the word “pajero” means tosser in Spanish. They chose to change the name to Montero for the Spanish audience when they realised the mistake they made.
  • McDonald’s translated their tagline “I’m loving it!” to “I just like it!” for their Chinese campaign. This is because in China it is pretty offensive to use the word “love” in public. Their transcreation approach was quite successful and culturally smart.
  • Dove is a leading company that sells soap and beauty products. Their campaign on accepting different body images was a huge failure in China. The Chinese couldn’t accept the idea of less than perfect models advertising a beauty product.

Top Transcreation Categories

But how do you know if the content you have requires translation, localization, or transcreation?

To answer this question, we’ve listed the types of text or content that require transcreation or a combination of the trio.

Top Content Types That Require Transcreation

1) Marketing Content

The translation of marketing materials tops the list of content types that require transcreation. After all, marketing requires creativity and testing for production.

So naturally, it would need an equally or even more creative mind to transfer the tone, message, ideas, and benefits into a different language.

Marketing content types include website translation, which involves SEO translation, as well as translating social media ads, posts, and images, as well as Google ad campaigns, and other types of online content.

2) Video Content

Translating video content can range from documentaries, docu-series, movies, and songs to speech. All of these can’t be done using a simple translation.

Moreover, all of these options require subtitling work, voice-over, or both.

3) E-Commerce Content

While general website content falls under marketing content, e-commerce websites fall under e-commerce translation. Think of it as a combination or an overlap.

To produce a multilingual e-commerce website, you’re going to need localization, transcreation, or both.

E-commerce giant Jumia is a great example of a multilingual website that combines localization and transcreation. The website is available in English, Arabic, and several French dialects for French-speaking countries in Africa.

Translating stores on Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce also falls under this category.

4) Literary Translation

The translation of novels, novellas, poetry, and any other form of fiction – and to a great extent modern non-fiction books – is purely transcreation.

Why Transcreation Differs From Translation

Here are four ways translation and transcreation are different:

1) Transcreators Aren’t Just Translators

People involved in transcreation work aren’t your average translators.

They are part copywriters, and part-translators, and must be creative and amazing at research and experimentation.

2) Transcreation Involves A Creative Brief

While a translation project requires a translation brief or some form of brief about the project, transcreation is different.

It’s more like copywriting and involves a creative brief that offers information like target audience, buyer personas, and other details.

3) Transcreation Entails Tone And Creativity

Also like copywriting, transcreation means the translator and writer need to adapt the text to the tone of the source text.

Adapting the tone is one of the hardest things to do. Even newbie copywriters struggle to adapt to the tone of a certain brand. Imagine having to do that in two languages!

4) Transcreation Is More Expensive

By now, you’ve probably realized that transcreation isn’t easy. And accordingly, transcreation fees are higher than standard translation and even localization.

Factors of a Good Transcreation Project!

1. Choosing a Native Translator:

Knowing the language and understanding what the words mean are two different things. Many countries use two forms of language; the formal and colloquial forms. Simply just being aware of the colloquial form doesn’t necessarily mean understanding how it is used in daily life. The use of idioms and even slang can greatly affect how the campaign goes. A native translator will also be aware of the cultural notion of the words as they have lived in the target country. They know what is acceptable and what is considered a cultural taboo.

2. Defining the Purpose of the Text:

Understanding the purpose of the text, whether it is to push the reader to buy or simply to create brand awareness, will determine how transcreation can be used. A good transcreation team will understand how the original campaign needs to be adapted to suit the needs and expectations of the target audience. 

3. Providing Detailed Information About the Project:

Providing sufficient information about the project is essential for the transcreation team to successfully do their job. This includes detailed information about the audience, the purpose of the message, and the medium of the text, such as whether it will be used online or on TV and other important data. It will help the team recreate the content, choosing the appropriate tools to be more appealing to the target audience. 

4. Considering the Cultural Background of the Text:

Understanding social, cultural, historical, religious, and political taboos will make the transcreation process more successful. This includes references to elderly people, consuming alcohol, how the models dress and behave, and relationships between opposite sexes. Failing to take these points into consideration can make a successful campaign fail elsewhere.

5. Accurate Transcreation Process:

It is extremely important to compare texts before making your final decision. You should at least have three options for each text, have it back-translated and then finally revised by a local expert. 

Who Can Offer Transcreation Services?

Not all translators or translation agencies can provide transcreation services. As you can see, this type of creative translation requires certain skills. However, here are some guidelines to follow when choosing a supplier who can offer transcreation services:

  • Native speaker of the language: it doesn’t matter how fluent the translator or the expert in the target language is. They have to be native speakers of the language. Only natives know the nuances of their languages.
  • Resident of the target country: you need to make sure the transcreation expert lives in the target country your campaign is made for. This ensures they are aware of the culture and synonyms used there.
  • Master of marketing translation: transcreation is all about creativity. Marketing translation is very close to transcreation. So check if your translator has been working in marketing translation for a long time as it improves their creativity.

Transcreation rates per hour

The transcreation service is charged per hour. The prices range from $35 per hour to $75 depending on the language you are looking for. You need to allocate the hourly rate in the brief sent to the linguist before they start their work. The brief needs to include how many hours of transcreation work are allocated for this project.

transcreation rate per word

Usually, transcreation is charged per hour or a flat rate for the project. This happens because of the effort needed to transcreate marketing content. For example, a 10-word tagline may take 2 hours to be transcreated as the linguist needs to understand the sense of the source text and generate alternatives. This process can take hours.


Transcreation is one of the most important tools that companies should utilize if they want to reach global audiences. The marketing world is full of examples where transcreation was a huge success or a great failure.

The process of transcreation should be run by professionals who fully understand the product they are selling, and are also aware of who is going to use this product. Understanding and analyzing consumers’ needs, expectations, and restrictions can greatly affect the end results of the transcreation project.

The successful analysis of the language, paying attention to cultural differences, and the appropriate use of idioms will definitely make any transcreation project a great success.