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  • Writer's pictureTy Smarpat - Localization Manager

What is Transcreation? Bridging the Gap Between Translation and Creativity

In the age of nonstop global communication, businesses are constantly seeking ways to reach wider audiences across cultures and languages. This drive has led to the evolution of various language-related disciplines, including translation, localization, and transcreation.

While translation aims to convey the meaning of text from one language to another, transcreation goes a step further. Transcreation blends translation with creative adaptation, ensuring that the essence and impact of the source content are preserved while effectively resonating with the target audience.

Here’s everything to know about transcreation; including its significance, process, examples, and applications.

What is Transcreation?

Transcreation, short for "translation + creation," is a creative translation process that goes beyond straightforward linguistic conversion of text from one language to another. Unlike traditional translation, where the primary goal is to convey the original meaning accurately, transcreation focuses on capturing the essence, tone, and cultural nuances of the source content while adapting it to suit the target audience's language, culture, and context.

Transcreation is commonly used in marketing, advertising, and creative content, where maintaining the emotional impact, branding, and messaging is crucial. It is often employed for slogans, taglines, brand names, advertising campaigns, and other content that requires not just linguistic translation but also cultural adaptation. This process may involve altering cultural references, idioms, humor, and even restructuring sentences or concepts to ensure that the message resonates effectively with the new audience.

In transcreation, the transcreator needs to have a deep understanding of both the source and target cultures, as well as the ability to convey the intended message creatively while staying true to its original meaning. The goal is to evoke the same emotional response for the target audience as the original content does for the source audience, even if the specific words and expressions used may differ significantly.

Transcreation can be more time-consuming and complex than traditional translation due to the emphasis on creativity and cultural adaptation. As a result, transcreation specialists often work closely with marketers, copywriters, and other professionals to ensure the final content aligns with the intended message and brand identity.

The Transcreation Process

The transcreation process is a balance of linguistic expertise and creative adaptation. Here's a detailed step-by-step guide.

1. Understand the Source Content

  • Review the source content thoroughly to grasp its meaning, context, tone, and emotional nuances.

  • Identify any cultural references, idioms, wordplay, or metaphors that might need special attention during the transcreation process.

2. Understand the Target Audience

  • Gain a clear understanding of the target audience's culture, preferences, values, and language nuances.

  • Consider the socio-cultural differences that may impact the effectiveness of the transcreated content.

3. Define Objectives

  • Determine the goals of the transcreation project. What emotional response or action do you want to evoke from the target audience?

  • Establish key messaging points that need to be conveyed in the transcreated content.

4. Brainstorm and Ideation

  • Generate creative ideas to adapt the source content while maintaining its essence.

  • Explore different ways to express the core message using culturally relevant references, wordplay, and metaphors.

5. Conceptualization

  • Develop a transcreation concept that aligns with the objectives and resonates with the target audience.

  • Consider how to evoke the desired emotional response while staying true to the original message.

6. Content Creation

  • Start drafting the transcreated content in the target language, using the chosen concept.

  • Focus on maintaining the tone, style, and emotions of the original content while tailoring it for the target audience.

7. Review and Refinement

  • Review the transcreated content carefully, comparing it with the source content to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity.

  • Pay attention to subtleties and nuances, making sure they are effectively transferred to the target language.

8. Cultural Adaptation

  • Ensure that cultural references, idiomatic expressions, and metaphors make sense in the target culture.

  • Avoid anything that might be offensive or inappropriate in the target culture.

9. Emotional Resonance

  • Check whether the transcreated content evokes the desired emotions from the target audience.

  • Make adjustments to enhance emotional impact if necessary.

10. Quality Assurance

  • Proofread the transcreated content for grammar, syntax, and spelling errors.

  • Confirm that the message remains consistent with the original content's intent.

11. Feedback and Iteration

  • Share the transcreated content with native speakers of the target language and culture for feedback.

  • Incorporate feedback and make necessary revisions to improve accuracy and cultural alignment.

12. Final Review

  • Conduct a final review to ensure that the transcreated content meets the project's objectives and resonates effectively with the target audience.

13. Delivery

  • Deliver the transcreated content along with any necessary explanations or guidelines to the client or stakeholders

Transcreation Vs. Translation

Purpose and Goal

Translation: To accurately convey the meaning of the source text while adhering to linguistic conventions.

Transcreation: To adapt the source content creatively while evoking the same emotional response and cultural relevance as the original.

Scope of Changes

Translation: Primarily involves linguistic adjustments, focusing on grammar, vocabulary, and structure.

Transcreation: Involves broader changes, including adjustments to tone, imagery, idiomatic expressions, and cultural references.

Creativity and Adaptation

Translation: Requires a strong grasp of both source and target languages, but creativity is generally constrained to adhering to the original meaning.

Transcreation: Requires a higher degree of creative thinking to capture the essence of the original content while adapting it for cultural impact.

Transcreation Vs. Localization

Purpose and Goal

Localization: To make content culturally relevant and linguistically suitable for a specific audience. Localization aims to create a seamless experience for the audience, allowing them to connect with the content as if it were originally created in their language and culture.

Transcreation: To evoke the same emotional response and cultural relevance as the original while adapting it creatively.

Scope of Changes

Localization: Focuses on adapting content to align with local customs, idioms, and cultural references.

Transcreation: Involves reimagining cultural references, metaphors, and expressions to ensure the content's impact remains intact.

Creativity and Adaptation

Localization: Involves some degree of adaptation but primarily aims to maintain the original content's structure and meaning.

Transcreation: Requires a high level of creative thinking to capture the essence of the original while making significant adjustments to suit the target culture.

Audience Engagement

Localization: Enhances user experience by removing language and cultural barriers.

Transcreation: Establishes a deep emotional connection with the target audience by crafting content that resonates on a cultural and emotional level.

Examples of Transcreation

Transcreation is everywhere - here are some examples of how global brands have successfully used transcreation to promote their messaging across differing languages and locales.


  • The brand's name and logo have been adapted to various languages while still retaining the essence of the original brand.

  • Coca-Cola has had 62 brand slogans since 1886, with the most recent decades promoting a fun, happy, laid-back lifestyle; “The Coke Side of Life,” “Open Happiness,” “Taste the Feeling,” and “Real Magic.”

  • In China, Coca-Cola was adapted to,"可口可乐" (Kěkǒu Kělè), which phonetically translates to "tasty fun."

Kit Kat

  • The chocolate brand's name has been creatively transcreated in various markets.

  • In Japan, the name sounds like "キットカット" (Kitto Katto), which is similar to the phrase "kitto katsu," meaning "surely win."


  • The fast-food giant has transcreated its name into various languages, often keeping the "Mc" prefix while adjusting the rest of the name.

    • For example, in Arabic, it's "ماكدونالدز" (Makdūnāldz).

  • Additionally, Mcdonald's has utilized transcreation when it comes to their famous advertising jingle, “I’m lovin’ in.” This wasn’t the easiest to translate in some languages, like Mandarin, as the word “love” is not used in the same casual way. So, the transcreators went with a similar tagline for China, ““我就喜歡”, I just like it.


  • Nike's "Just Do It" slogan has been transcreated into different languages, maintaining the motivational and empowering message.

    • For instance, in Chinese, it's "只管去做" (Zhǐ Guǎn Qù Zuò), which means "Just Go Do It."


  • The online hospitality platform's name has been transcreated in various languages.

    • In Chinese, it's "爱彼迎" (Ài Bǐ Yíng), which conveys the idea of "welcoming each other with love."


  • The potato chip brand has transcreated its slogan "Betcha can't eat just one" into various languages.

    • In Chinese, it's "乐事薯片,一片难忘" (Lè Shì Shǔ Piàn, Yī Piàn Nán Wàng), which roughly translates to "Lay's Chips, an Unforgettable Piece."

Best Practices for Transcreation

Understand the Source and Target Cultures

Successful transcreation begins with a thorough understanding of both the source and target cultures. This means considering the nuances, customs, idioms, and cultural references that shape each culture of each locale you are entering. Doing so will provide cultural insight that will guide your creative decisions, helping you capture the essence of the original content while adapting it seamlessly to the target audience's perspective.

Grasp Your Brand's Voice and Identity

Having a solid grasp of your brand’s voice and identity will make it easier for your transcreators when adapting it for other cultures and locales. So before you even start the transcreation process, it’s recommended to establish your brand’s values, tone, and messaging style, whether that is playful, professional, or serious. This way the transcreators can capture the same essence while making it relevant to the new culture.

Embrace Creative Liberties

Transcreation empowers you to be creative. This means feeling free to adapt metaphors, idioms, and expressions to align with the target culture's preferences. Doing so allows you to maintain emotional resonance even if it means departing from a literal translation.

Prioritize Emotional Connection

In transcreation, emotions matter. Aim to evoke the same emotional response in the target audience as the original content did in its native culture. Whether it's humor, nostalgia, excitement, or empathy, focus on eliciting an emotional connection.

Collaborate with Native Speakers

Collaboration is key. Engaging with native speakers and cultural experts from the target audience will give you valuable insights, helping you fine-tune your transcreation to ensure cultural authenticity.

In conclusion, transcreation stands as a dynamic and evolving field that bridges the gap between translation and creativity. By combining linguistic expertise with cultural understanding and creative flair, transcreation ensures that content not only communicates accurately but also resonates emotionally with audiences across the globe. In a world where effective communication knows no borders, transcreation paves the way for meaningful connections and shared experiences.


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