The Phenomenon of Transcreation in Localization

welocalize January 10, 2017

The rate at which digital marketing continues to shrink our world is perhaps matched only by the rapid growth of transcreation used to develop global messages for multilingual audiences around the world.

What exactly is transcreation and what problems does it solve? Explore the fast-growing transcreation landscape through the eyes of Nathaneal Campbell, digital copywriter at Adapt Worldwide, a Welocalize multilingual digital marketing agency.

It’s no secret copywriters have been using evocative language to stimulate audiences and encourage action since the invention of the printing press. More recently the requirement for content to drive online marketing strategies has put writers in great demand. Global brands are now seeing billions of users across the globe searching for products and services in numerous languages.

Global brands need to develop digital content to offer products and services to multiple markets and global audiences. Segmenting audiences and marketing content by language, region and dialect, can be a challenge.

Any part of the online user experience must be able to cross the lines of language and culture. Transcreation is an integral part of the overall localization process. Transcreation takes the concept and key messages from the source content and adapts and recreates it for specific target language markets.

Creating Great Copy and Digital Marketing Content

Let’s start our journey to transcreation using content creation as a starting point. The truth is that great copy aims to persuade rather than motivate and good content informs rather than sells. More often than not, the motivation for a prospect to convert to a customer comes from their own desire to remedy a problem.

Effective content addresses the audience’s pain points and then subtly suggests the product or service as a logical solution. We need to convince the target audience that the offering on the table is the ideal, most fashionable, most entertaining or fastest way to solve their problem.

For the linguistic copywriter, it’s about getting the balance right. We need to whip information, entertainment, emotion and reason up into a stimulating cocktail. Use the right words in the right order you can create the vehicle to deliver your message and encourage engagement.

Author and marketer Seth Godin calls effective online marketing an art. “Art isn’t only a painting,” he says. “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer.” In fact, to drive engagement the most creative copy and content must use language artfully. The writer usually draws upon an extensive rhetoric of cultural references too, both local and international.

The Challenge

Global brands spend a lot of time and money creating useful and engaging content to drive engagements. This content should naturally be optimized for search engines and ready to be found by potential customers through search engines.

These engines organize products and services around language using keywords. So logically, if you start to market to a worldwide audience there is a growing demand for you to broadcast your offerings by employing a multilingual SEO strategy that will reach new audiences in all target markets.

Established brands, in particular, will naturally have a wealth of creative collateral in their local language. These materials will be filled with effective messages, well-tuned to communicate their brand identity. Many also want to present a unified branded content offering to global markets.

How do you get your branded content to resonate with international audiences if it relies heavily on the subtle nuances of the English language?

A popular solution is to put all advertising materials through translation software. This can be seriously detrimental to the brand and could waste a lot of marketing and advertising budget.

While machine translation is getting better, the nuances and references encapsulated within a piece of creative work often used in digital marketing materials get lost in an automated process.

A better approach is to use a human translator who will accurately translate from one language to another. This may not give you the desired response you want in new markets. Direct translation of marketing content often does not work, no matter how linguistically accurate it is. Imagine your company slogan is effective and memorable because it rhymes in English? Straightforward translation, even performed by a skilled human translator won’t help because there is a strong likelihood that the rhyme will not survive the conversion process.

Enter Transcreation

Think back to the list of factors copywriters use to create our messages. We aim to elicit emotion which leads to action. The process of translation is to get a message from one language to another, which is often the goal for certain content types. For digital marketing content destined for multiple, global markets, direct translation is not enough. Transcreation is required.

Transcreation creates localized content for any number of international markets. 

The process of transcreation, with regards to writing, is about more than converting meaning. It’s also about preserving the emotional effects produced by the way those words were written. The concept itself may not be a new one, but in the context of the future of digital marketing, it is essential.


Nathaneal Campbell is a digital copywriter at Adapt Worldwide, a Welocalize digital multilingual digital marketing agency.

If you would like to learn more about Welocalize, Adapt Worldwide and transcreation, contact us at