Marketing Transcreation: A Comprehensive Guide (+ Free Checklist)

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Written by

Chidinma Egwuogu

“I’d like a chilled glass of wax tadpole coke!”

Said nobody, ever.

But local shopkeepers in China kept the sign up anyway. Until Coca-Cola stepped in.

And that’s how not to do marketing transcreation. Easy-peasy.

Doing marketing transcreation right is a tad more difficult, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it with our straightforward advice.

In this article, we’ll break down marketing transcreation, covering everything from the basics to industry-specific strategies and best practices. All topped with a handy checklist.

Pro tip: Use Centus to streamline and organize all your marketing transcreation projects across various markets and languages. Find out more.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

-What is marketing transcreation?

-Key benefits of marketing transcreation

-How to perform transcreation

-Industry-specific approaches to marketing transcreation

-Best practices for marketing transcreation

-Your free transcreation checklist

-How Centus can help with your marketing transcreation

What Is Marketing Transcreation?

Marketing transcreation is the process of adapting a brand's marketing message and content to resonate with a specific cultural or local audience. It covers all your marketing materials, including slogans, ads, social content, and email campaigns, among others.

What is marketing transcreation?

Unlike direct translation or localization, transcreation marketing maintains the emotional impact, tone, and intent of the original content while tailoring it to align with the unique values, beliefs, and customs of the target market.

Example: A localized marketing slogan might translate the words accurately, while a transcreated slogan would consider local humor, idioms, and cultural context to craft a message that truly touches your customers. It might even involve leaving parts of the slogan unchanged!

Key components of marketing transcreation include:

  • Adaptation, not translation: Transcreation trumps literal translation. It’s creatively reimagining marketing content to connect with the local audience.

  • Cultural sensitivity: Marketing transcreation recognizes and respects the cultural norms, traditions, and taboos of the target market.

  • Emotional connection: It encourages emotions in the target audience, mirroring the original marketing message.

  • Brand consistency: Maintains brand identity across markets while adapting the marketing message.

Key Benefits of Marketing Transcreation

When it comes to successfully reaching audiences across different languages and cultures, marketing transcreation brings several advantages to the table.

Let's break down these benefits with real-life examples to understand their significance:

1. Increased acceptance and trust

Adapting your marketing campaign to fit local cultures helps establish a sense of trust and acceptance. When you adapt your marketing materials to suit local cultures, it's like saying, "Hey, we get you, and we appreciate your values!"

This not only builds trust with potential customers but also makes your brand stand out in a sea of generic messages.

McDonald’s vegetarian burger ad

Source: McDonald’s

McDonald's nailed marketing transcreation by adding vegetarian options to their menu in India. This move demonstrated respect for the local culture and dietary preferences, which contributed to higher acceptance and trust among Indian consumers.

2. Accurate and consistent brand image

Advertising transcreation ensures that your brand's identity remains consistent regardless of the language or culture. This consistency is crucial for customers to recognize and connect with your brand, no matter where they are.

Coca-Cola ads around the world

Source: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola's iconic red and white combo isn't just for show. It's a visual symphony that plays everywhere, from New York to New Delhi, demonstrating the power of a consistent brand identity with a bit of creative freedom.

3. Increased sales and profits

You can enter new markets and extend your consumer base by properly modifying your marketing materials. This increased reach frequently translates into increased sales and profitability, making marketing transcreation a wise investment.

Samsung OOH

Source: The Drum

Samsung's success story fits here. The company tailors its product names and advertisements for multiple languages and cultures. This approach has directly contributed to Samsung's impressive global sales figures.

4. Enhanced cultural awareness and sensitivity

Nobody likes to be misunderstood, especially on a global stage. Marketing transcreation helps you avoid cringeworthy moments by making sure your message doesn't get lost in translation – or worse, offend an entire nation.

Dove 2017 Ad

Source: CNBC

In 2017, Dove made a huge marketing blunder with a seemingly innocuous ad that depicted a dark-skinned woman transforming into a light-skinned woman. The backlash was swift and merciless. However, Dove learned from the experience and adjusted their message.

They now choose models and regular people that reflect local beauty standards and pay particular attention to cultural sensitivity — ergo, their “Real Beauty” campaign.

So, what's the big deal about marketing transcreation? It's not just high-flying jargon or complex strategies. It is a connection.

You have a message. You adapt the same message to a target culture, and they connect with you. Trust builds, doors open, and your brand grows. Simple as that.

Transcreation in Action: Steps Explained

Marketing transcreation is a collaborative effort involving various professionals, each bringing their expertise to ensure that the marketing material transcends language barriers without losing its original appeal.

Note: Not all parts of marketing materials might require transcreation. Some elements might translate seamlessly without alteration.

Here's a closer look at the transcreation process:

  • Understanding the target audience: Marketing strategists and market researchers analyze the target market, focusing on cultural norms, values, and language nuances.

  • Selection of transcreators: Project managers choose translators who are native speakers of the target language and are familiar with the brand's voice.

  • Creative adaption of content: Native copywriters work together to adapt slogans and messages from the source language without losing the original emotional impact.

  • Localization of visual elements: Designers adjust images, graphics, and colors to suit local preferences, considering cultural symbolism and aesthetics.

  • Quality assurance and review: Editors and reviewers ensure accuracy and cultural appropriateness, keeping the message true to the brand's identity.

  • Pilot testing in target markets: A focus audience evaluates the transcreated materials, and adjustments are made based on feedback.

  • Final launch and monitoring: The campaign is launched and monitored, tracking its success and making continuous improvements to stay relevant in the target market.

It’s important to also note that this process is neither rigid nor one-size-fits-all. You should tweak it based on your transcreation project and the people you are selling to.

Industry-Specific Approaches to Marketing Transcreation

Transcreation in marketing requires a tailored approach for each industry to reflect its unique traits, audiences, and cultural nuances.

Below, we'll explore how specific industries can implement transcreation, highlighting relevant case studies too.

1. Automotive industry

Cars aren't just machines. They're a symbol of lifestyle, freedom, or luxury. When transcreating marketing materials for the automotive industry, it's essential to recognize local regulations, driving cultures, and consumer preferences.

When Ford wanted to promote its eco-friendly cars in Europe, it emphasized environmental responsibility. But in the US, the focus shifted to innovation and cutting-edge technology. Ford’s awareness of these regional differences led to a more impactful marketing strategy.

2. Healthcare industry

The healthcare industry demands precision and empathy. Cultural perceptions of health, well-being, and medical practices can vary widely. In Latin America, for example, the market structure is different, with many small, independent pharmacies compared to the large chain drugstores in the US.

Pfizer adapted its marketing in South America to align with the region's pharmaceutical landscape, focusing on community outreach and connections with independent pharmacies.

3. Technology industry

In technology, it's not only about the features but how those features fit into the daily lives of the people. Transcreation in this industry must account for varying levels of technological understanding, local interests, and the overall societal context in which the product will be used.

When Fitbit entered the Chinese market with its fitness trackers, it took into account the country's growing health consciousness and adapted its marketing material to emphasize communal exercise (even in the workplace), and family health.

4. Fashion industry

Fashion is an expression of individuality, and what's trendy in one region might not be so in another. Transcreation in this industry goes beyond language. It considers the visual aesthetics, regional fashion trends, and local celebrities who may endorse the products.

Gucci's successful marketing in Dubai is centered around the local fashion sense, considering the unique blend of traditional and modern tastes. The strategy included tailored designs and targeted promotions that appealed to the Emirati audience.

5. Food and beverage industry

Taste is quite literally a matter of personal preference. For the food and beverage industry, understanding local cuisines, dietary restrictions, and culinary traditions is paramount in tailoring a message that makes the audience's mouth water.

KFC's offering of rice bowls in their Japan ads was a localized move that connected with the Japanese love for rice dishes. This change in menu was a culinary transcreation that led to a warm reception.

Best Practices for Marketing Transcreation

Transcreation is an intricate process that requires careful attention to detail, cultural sensitivity, and creativity. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Research your target audience: Knowing the preferences, behaviors, and expectations of the target audience is vital. Creating customer personas for each region can help pinpoint what appeals to them. For example, Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign was adopted in different countries by using popular local names on the labels.

  • Involve native experts: Collaboration with native language copywriters ensures that the message retains its nuance and tone. A non-native translation professional might miss cultural subtleties that only a native speaker can capture.

  • Be mindful of visuals: Images, colors, and symbols may carry different meanings in different cultures. Review your graphics to avoid misunderstandings or offensive interpretations.

  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Different countries may have different legal standards and regulations concerning advertising and marketing. Make sure your creative brief is compliant with local laws.

  • Utilize technology effectively: Leveraging cutting-edge platforms offering professional transcreation services can simplify the process and increase efficiency.

  • Monitor and evaluate: Constantly monitor the impact of the transcreated content. Tools like A/B testing can be useful to evaluate different versions and refine the message as needed.

Pro tip: Centus can help automate marketing transcreation workflows, provide real-time collaboration, and ensure quality control. Learn more.

Your Free Transcreation Checklist

When it comes to marketing transcreation, there are many factors to consider. This checklist is a straightforward guide to ensuring you have all the essentials covered:

  • Monitor and evaluate the campaign: Analyze success across all channels, both digital and traditional.

  • Consider time and budget constraints: Factor in costs and timing for print materials, shipping, and digital campaigns.

  • Ensure brand consistency: Maintain the core brand message across different cultures and mediums.

  • Adapt marketing channels: Select the most effective channels, including print, TV, radio, online, and social media.

  • Know your audience: Research demographics, cultural norms, and preferences.

  • Collaborate with native language experts: Hire or consult with native speakers.

  • Review visual content: Assess imagery in both digital and print materials for cultural relevance.

  • Ensure legal compliance: Check local laws and regulations for all advertising mediums.

  • Utilize proper tools and technology: Use relevant tools for both online and offline marketing campaigns.

  • Perform quality assurance: Implement strict QA processes for all content, both digital and physical.

  • Understand cultural nuances: Ensure all materials are culturally sensitive and tailored to each market.

  • Create culturally relevant calls to action: Customize CTAs for various platforms and print materials.

  • Seek customer feedback: Utilize different methods to gain feedback, such as surveys, online reviews, and focus groups.

  • Analyze competitor strategies: Look at what competitors are doing in both online and offline spaces.

  • Align with local marketing trends: Study trends across all marketing platforms and mediums.

  • Test multiple ad versions: Test variations in digital ads and print materials.

  • Translate metadata for SEO: Optimize all online content, including websites and social media posts.

  • Coordinate across departments: Collaborate with all relevant departments, including design, copywriting, and media buying.

  • Plan for future updates: Have a strategy for updating both digital and physical marketing materials.

  • Identify key performance indicators (KPIs): Measure success across all channels, online and offline.

  • Document all processes and guidelines: Maintain clear guidelines for all marketing materials, digital and physical.

  • Implement crisis management protocols: Prepare strategies to respond to potential issues that might arise from misunderstandings or cultural missteps.

This checklist is designed to be exhaustive, ensuring that you cover all aspects of marketing transcreation. It can be used as a reference for both new projects and routine evaluations. Feel free to modify it according to your unique project requirements.

How Centus Helps With Your Marketing Transcreation

Centus’ dashboard

Transcreation plays a vital role in adapting marketing messages for different cultural norms without losing the original intent. Centus can streamline this process. Here's how:

  • Centralized platform: Centus offers a platform where all your transcreation projects can be managed in one place. This makes collaboration easier between teams and ensures consistency across different markets.

  • Quality assurance: With Centus, you can set specific guidelines and quality checks for your transcreation projects.

  • Real-time collaboration with language experts: Centus enables real-time collaboration with language and cultural experts, ensuring that your marketing message is adapted accurately and thoughtfully.

  • Customizable workflows: Centus offers customizable workflows that suit your specific marketing transcreation needs. This flexibility allows you to create a process that aligns with your goals and timelines.

  • Comprehensive analytics and reporting: Understanding how your transcreated content is performing is vital. Centus offers analytics and reporting tools that provide insights into how your content resonates with different audiences.

  • Integration with marketing tools: Centus integrates with various marketing tools, making it easier to deploy your transcreated content across different channels.

  • Security and compliance: Centus ensures that all your data is handled with the utmost security and complies with data privacy regulations.

  • Scalability: Whether you are entering a new market or expanding your reach, Centus provides the scalability to grow with your business. It can handle projects of any size, ensuring that you can adapt your marketing strategies as needed.

With Centus as your localization management suite, you can confidently tackle marketing transcreation challenges. Learn more.

To Sum Up

Transcreation can be tricky, but with the right tools and insights, your marketing messages can truly connect with audiences worldwide. Understanding what resonates, staying true to your brand, and embracing the best technology are important to your project’s success.

Remember to follow our tips to help keep you centered in your transcreation efforts.

Happy transcreating!


What is an example of a transcreation?

An example of successful transcreation is Final Fantasy XV's character Prompto Argentum (Quick Silver). In Japanese, he's “プロンプト・アルゲンテム” (preserving the sound), in French "Prompto Argentum" (preserving meaning), and in Spanish "Prompto Argento" (blending both sound and meaning).

What is the meaning of transcreation?

Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while preserving its tone, intent, style, and context.

What are the elements of transcreation?

Elements of transcreation include:

  • Language translation: Conveying the original text's meaning.

  • Cultural sensitivity: Adapting content to suit local customs and norms.

  • Brand consistency: Ensuring the brand voice stays consistent across different markets.

  • Creativity: Using inventive ways to communicate the original idea.

What is the process of transcreation?

The process of transcreation typically follows these steps:

  • Understanding the source: Grasping the original message and its context.

  • Identifying target audience: Recognizing the cultural nuances of the target market.

  • Creative translation: Translating the content while preserving its essence.

  • Review and edit: Ensuring that the transcreated content aligns with the brand and resonates with the audience.

  • Implementation: Launching the transcreated content in the target market.

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