How to Run a Successful Transcreation Project

How to Run a Successful Transcreation Project

Translating marketing content isn’t simply a case of literally translating from one language to another.

To create a successful campaign, it’s necessary to have real insight into the local culture, imagining how the campaign is likely to be received and deciding on which elements require localisation and adaptation. This is a process called transcreation.

There are many components to a successful transcreation project. Here are our top tips for successfully transcreating a marketing or advertising campaign across different regions and cultures.

Target audiences, not regions

The success of any international marketing campaign relies on the ability of the chosen message to resonate with the target audience. Populations vary according to demographic, cultural, social and economic factors and all these factors will affect consumer behavior.

Understanding how this diversity within the consumer base affects your customers is a key part of your task as a global marketer.

Compared to established economies, the lack of homogeneity within emerging markets can be particularly striking. So identifying a specific target audience and developing your messages and value proposition to cater to their individual motives and expectations – you can begin to transcreate your source content to better engage with specific target audiences in their own language while respecting cultural norms.

Understand the difference between translation and transcreation

Transcreation is more than just taking existing content and rewording it. The translator also needs to envisage the target audience, their motives, needs and expectations, and adapt the message to suit that audience. Sometimes, this involves a complete reimagining of the original message to guarantee that the campaign will be well received by the intended audience. For this reason, transcreation is a real art and involves a broader set of skills and knowledge of the local culture than translation.

Know when to use transcreation

Getting to grips with knowing when transcreation is required, and how much should be applied is a huge challenge. Your transcreation project manager will need to be able to foresee which audiences won’t respond well to the original format or tone of the campaign and provide suggestions on alternative messages and approaches.

For example, it’s widely known that the Dove® skin care campaign of body acceptance (massively successful in the West) didn’t go down well in China, where audiences were less open to the idea of imperfect models advertising personal care and beauty products. In this case, transcreation of the original message should have been recommended for Chinese consumers.

Transcreation looks at why and how an audience buys, by understanding their needs and expectations.

A well informed transcreation team understands how much a campaign needs to be adapted to suit the consumer’s motivations and desires.
It’s important to understand the key components of transcreation; usually this is a mix of translating and updating the copy and reviewing the images and video for suitability. Cultural references need refreshing for the new audience and any humour or idioms may need to be adapted to suit local mores. In some markets, celebrities are an important part of any brand marketing activities. So, choosing the right celebrity to endorse your product is an important part of a transcreation project in many regions around the world.

Know when translation isn’t enough

Transcreation isn’t a literal adaptation and this is often something that clients struggle to understand. Managing expectations is an important part of working with the wider team on these kinds of projects. Many senior decision makers are often challenged by a transcreation team that wants to change a message that has worked well in other territories. Many management teams see the lack of consistency between campaigns as posing a challenge to their brand. It’s important to be clear from the outset about why the message may be changed to suit new audiences.

Allocate the right resources

It is also sometimes difficult to make a case for transcreation because it is more expensive than translation. It can be hard to justify making such a large investment into launching a campaign into a new market. Running a successful transcreation project may require you to start by building a solid case for making a reasonable budget available for it and allocating the appropriate resources.

Manage expectations

Transcreation takes time but it’s worth it. So it’s worth managing senior management’s expectations in terms of turnaround time. Lead times will shorten as the transcreation team gets to grips with the brand and messaging, but the initial process will involve a lengthy on-boarding process and lots of communication with stakeholders to get it right. Essentially, it’s like the development process for a completely new campaign, with a new creative process and additional rounds of approval for the transcreated content.

Provide a detailed brief

To create a successful campaign in your target region, it’s important to develop a campaign brief that’s as detailed as possible. Because you aren’t doing a literal translation, the translators need to keep the brief in mind when exploring new ideas and approaches and reworking the source language messaging. Generally, the more information they have to go on, the better.

FREE DOWNLOAD: get access to our transcreation brief template that will guide you through the setup of your transcreation project

Before you go live with your campaign – make sure you test the messages on a user group from the target country. They can give you immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t and could be the difference between your campaign bombing or succeeding.

Choose the right team

Brands spend a lot of time crafting their marketing messages to suit the needs, motivations and behavior of their target audience in domestic markets. This means that using idioms, colloquialisms and even slang is commonplace which presents challenges for translators. This is why selecting the right team is key to a successful transcreation project. Find out who is a native speaker and who has lived in the target country. They will be able to guide the campaign’s development better than a non-native team member.

Remember it’s a creative process, which means there’s inevitably some risk involved.

Successful campaigns are often ones that take educated risks. Boldness can be an important part of your transcreation strategy. But it’s also wise to have regular meetings between all parties involved with the campaign to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises and everyone is informed about necessary changes and the strategy behind them in order to make educated decisions in order to manage and reduce risk and deliver on your objectives.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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