There are times when a straight translation is completely necessary; but there are other times when culture, wording or brand names just won’t translate well. That’s when you need to think about transcreation, to bring creative power to the table when translating international brands.
What is Transcreation?
Transcreation is a translation built from the ground up – and sometimes, one that digs even deeper. It doesn’t rely on word-for-word accuracy, perfect communication of original meanings or rigid guidelines. While these frameworks might be the order of the day for legal or financial document translations, they don’t always work well outside of those contexts.
Transcreation takes the general idea and rebuilds it with specific language that resonates with the target audience.
This can mean an entire rebrand, including imagery – transforming a brand into one that fits with a global market or a specific region. Many brands do this today: What was once Jif in the UK is now Cif – but it goes by a host of names internationally; in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, it’s still called Jif. But Vim, Viss and Handy Andy are all alternate monikers of the same product group. The name used depends on the region and what they resonate with most.
Usually, brands like to draw the fringe international names together into one umbrella – but this can backfire spectacularly if it’s not properly considered.
Why it’s Needed
Coca-Cola’s brand name, when first marketed in China, was translated as “Bite The Wax Tadpole” or “Female Horse Fastened With Wax”. This was because shopkeepers were trying to recreate a word that phonetically sounded like Coca-Cola, but with existing characters that had different meaning.
They couldn’t sell a product nobody could name. Coca-Cola hadn’t prescribed a local product name, assuming the notoriety of the brand would be enough – an ethnocentric move that resulted in corruption (by necessity) of the brand.
Coca-Cola eventually designed and trademarked a new word in Mandarin: K’o K’ou K’o Lê. It means “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice”, depending on context.
Coca-Cola could have avoided the initial confusion and brand dilution if it had developed a phonetic word before launching – giving shopkeepers something concrete to use. Instead, we have the Bite The Wax Tadpole story!
This isn’t the first or only time a big company has harmed itself with an international branding screw-up. It actually happens a lot more than you’d think it would, given the budgets and minds involved in international branding.
Transcreation Improves Brands Internationally
Transcreation doesn’t just avoid a brand name or slogan translating to something rude – it makes a brand better. The addition of a creative translator to an international brand team can build names and slogans that resonate with the target audience just as strongly as the original home territory wording.
Lumping everything together for convenience, or to meet budgets is ridiculous. When your marketing offends an entire nation, you might as well not market there at all. At best, it will be poorly received and won’t sell particularly well.
With transcreation, a native speaker with a creative spark and deep knowledge of the local culture shapes an image of a brand for an international audience. What one culture finds funny, another doesn’t. A phrase that’s bold and strong in one language is hilarious in another. Transcreation can take advantage of this, or rebuild entire brands and campaigns from the ground up.
The creative process doesn’t always translate – but with transcreation, it’s born again – for a new language, country and culture.
We See Transcreation as an Art
Looking for a professional transcreation service? Contact Kwintessential to find out more. Our experienced, creative translators are standing by. Just call (UK +44) 01460 279900 or send your message to us at [email protected].