The impact of international transcreation on your brand strategy

By Acclaro
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International Transcreation

Apple. Coca-Cola. Disney. Iconic brands aren’t just selling products and services – they’re selling stories and triggering emotions. Apple sells the feeling of “breaking the mold” (being one step above the crowd), Coca-Cola sells happiness in a bottle, and Disney sells childlike wonder. 

Those are big-name B2Cs but B2Bs also market through storytelling and emotion: Slack sells productivity, speed, and choices; Asana sells clarity; Adobe and Canva sell creativity; Zendesk sells lasting relationships. 

In today’s global marketplace, both B2C and B2B  stories and emotions need to resonate across continents, languages, and cultures, and oftentimes that means the story needs to be adapted. Translation is important, yes, but to tell your brand’s story at an international scale, it’s not enough. Without taking culture into account, you’ll lose the emotional impact that makes your messaging so powerful. 

This is where international transcreation comes in. Transcreation goes beyond converting words. It’s reimagining and recrafting a brand’s message so it strikes the right chord in every market it touches. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to incorporate this powerful approach into your global brand strategy to boost the effectiveness of your international marketing and advertising…so your brand can reach global markets as effectively as your home market.  

What is international transcreation, and how is it different from copy translation? 

With copy translation a translator converts your content from one language to another, staying as close to the original as possible. With transcreation, a skilled linguist adapts your copy to maintain the intended message, style, and tone for a specific locale. This can mean adapting and sometimes even completely reimagining the original concepts to resonate more fully with the target culture. 

Not all copy requires transcreation, but for creative campaigns, it’s often a necessity to maintain the desired effect in the target culture. Even markets that speak the same language, like the U.S. and the U.K., have different idioms, traditions, and values. As a result, the same message might be perceived differently in each market. 

A brand that transcreated their famous tagline is KFC, which is known for its fried chicken. In the US, KFC’s tagline is “Finger Lickin’ Good”, which implies that the chicken is so delicious that you want to lick your fingers after eating it. However, in some other countries, this tagline might not be culturally appropriate or appealing. For example, in China, KFC’s tagline is “吃鸡就是美” (eating chicken is beautiful or wonderful), which focuses on the positive emotion that the chicken brings. In France, KFC’s tagline is “L’Original” (The Original), which emphasizes the authenticity and uniqueness of the chicken recipe. In Japan, KFC’s tagline is “ケンタッキーはクリスマス” (roughly, Kentucky is Christmas), which associates the brand with the festive season and the tradition of eating fried chicken on Christmas Eve.

Transcreation keeps the message consistent, whereas translation alone could have failed to capture the emotion, intent, and impact. 

What kinds of brands might need international transcreation?

 Any brand that’s trying to reach customers outside of its home market needs to consider transcreation for important, highly visible, creative content. Traditional translation is less time-consuming and budget-intensive, so it may seem like a tempting shortcut. But the risks aren’t worth it. An overly literal translation of an idiom or slang could have far-reaching consequences, damaging the effectiveness of your carefully planned campaign or resulting in unintended offense in your target market. 

For example, you may have heard of the San Francisco ad agency that translated “Got milk?” to “Are you lactating?” in Spanish. What you may not be aware of is that the campaign would have been offensive on a cultural level as well.  Latin American moms tend to keep their fridges well-stocked as a cultural point of pride. Suggesting that they might be out of a staple like milk would have been insulting. Even if you don’t offend potential customers, you may simply fail to connect with them if you don’t adapt to their culture. 

Here’s a transcreation example to illustrate this point. When the largest eCommerce website in the Muslim world tried to launch a Black Friday promotion based on the popular US shopping holiday, they ran into some cultural obstacles: the color black indicates tragedy in Muslim culture, and Friday is a holy day. So, Black Friday became “White Friday,” a celebration of faith and family values. The campaign was a historic success. In the first year, they sold 600,000 items. The next year, they sold 1 million, and White Friday is now a four-day-long cultural institution in Muslim countries. 

International transcreation is especially important for brands in the following categories: 

eCommerce marketplaces

If you have an ecommerce brand, the world is your oyster. Online consumers are more than willing to make cross-border purchases. In fact, a 2019 study from Flow.io found that 67% of online shoppers had made purchases from websites located in another country. 

But there’s a catch: according to CSA Research, 40% of online shoppers won’t buy from you if your website isn’t available in their native language. 

While a mix of human-driven and machine translation will suffice for most of your website, transcreation is the most effective option for taglines and ad campaigns that lead visitors to shop and purchase. 

Financial services

Financial services depend on trust: almost one in four consumers say trustworthiness is the most important factor when they’re choosing a financial brand. If your slogan or your ads don’t inspire trust in your target market, your performance will suffer.

As a cautionary tale, consider the case of HSBC. Its slogan, “Assume Nothing,” came out as “Do nothing” in several countries, necessitating a rebrand that cost 10 million dollars.  

Software/SaaS 

Software and SaaS brands need transcreation to make sure their campaigns build connections with buyers at the cultural level. For example, SAP relied on transcreation to put a slightly different spin on its “Run Simple” tagline in different markets around the world: 

  • China: “Run Live” to emphasize speed  
  • Germany: “Einfach Machen” (Just Do It) to emphasize action
  • France: “Rien de plus simple” (Nothing could be simpler) to highlight ease of use

In addition to taglines and advertising copy, SaaS and software brands may need transcreation for content like sales decks to make sure their brand voice comes through loud and clear.  

Media and communication

This industry thrives on the power of words and images to tell compelling stories, and when these stories cross borders, they must be carefully adapted to maintain their impact.

For example, movie titles often require transcreation to make the right impression in a new market. That’s how “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” became “It’s Raining Falafel” in Israel. 

Non-profits

For non-profits, transcreation is a powerful tool to convey the heart and soul of a cause to a global audience. To inspire action, these messages must speak directly to the values and emotions of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. 

For instance, Translators Without Borders has several guides to help outside humanitarian organizations effectively communicate about social issues with local populations. This often involves finding new phrases for common terms that are more acceptable in the target culture. “Mental health” in the African Hausa language directly translates to “services for mad people,” with all the stigma that implies. Using the Hausa equivalent of “psychosocial support” allows people to get help without the stigma. 

Brand consistency for international market expansion

A consistent brand voice is a crucial part of communicating with a global audience. However, it’s equally important that your brand voice is attuned to the international customers in each market that you serve. Transcreation offers the best of both worlds: a message that’s both globally coherent and culturally tailored.

This approach prevents misunderstandings and avoids accidental offense so that your brand is understood and welcomed everywhere you do business.  

The best way to manage this? Create a version of your style guide for each target market, covering your voice and tone, how your audience prefers to be addressed, words to use and/or avoid, usage of slang, jargon, and idioms, and examples of great in-country content.  

Leverage international transcreation services to amplify your brand strategy 

Transcreation boosts your international brand strategy by making your brand voice and your brand story accessible and relatable to a global audience. It communicates not only the key messaging but also the tone, intent, and emotional appeal contained within that messaging. 

When applied appropriately, transcreation can have a higher ROI than translation alone. It deeply engages customers, fosters brand loyalty, and can increase conversion rates in diverse markets. It can also keep you from wasting money on ineffective campaigns and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

Acclaro has an established and scalable transcreation process to help you integrate this powerful tool into your brand strategy while minimizing the complexity involved in creating multiple versions of content.

Moving forward with transcreation

If you’re aiming to take your business global, getting your content translated is a solid start. But it’s not enough to make sure your brand messaging maintains its emotional impact and hits home in diverse markets. Worse, if using translation alone for highly-branded content you may even inadvertently cause problems for your brand. 

Transcreation, the process of adapting or recrafting creative content for a new market, helps make sure that you maintain the emotional resonance of your brand. Relying on translation when you need transcreation is a risk your brand can’t afford to take: misunderstanding and misinterpretations can damage your brand image, alienate international customers, and cost significant amounts of money to fix. 

Transcreation unlocks your global potential with a brand that’s relatable everywhere, keeping local culture in mind. 

At Acclaro, we’re experts at making sure your brand’s voice comes through, no matter where you are in the world. We can help you integrate translation and transcreation into your overall brand strategy so that you can reach an international audience efficiently and effectively.  We have a record of helping big names go global and we can help you do the same. 

Curious about how we can help your business grow by adapting your brand messaging for global audiences? Contact us today!

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