Transcreation – for marketing success in a new language

When you want to use your English marketing text in another country, you cannot translate it the same way as you would translate a product data sheet or a user manual. Instead, advertising and marketing texts need to undergo transcreation.

Successful marketing texts are always crafted with the reader in mind – who they are and what buttons you need to push to convince them to buy your product. But a message framed to persuade customers in one country in one language may sound odd to people raised in another linguistic tradition in another country. Worse still, it may put them off your product altogether.

The objective of translation

The translator’s task is to faithfully convert a text or statement from one language into another. The objective is to render the text as precisely as possible. If it says one thing in the source language, it must say the same in the translated text. And although some changes may be necessary to prevent the new text from sounding translated, the imperative for the translator is always to stick to the source!

For user instructions, workshop manuals, annual reports and contracts, not to mention court documents, precision is vital. The translation must faithfully replicate the contents of the source text, and the quality of the translation is measured by how correctly this has been done.

But the success of a marketing text is measured by its impact on sales. Instead of a translation, what is needed is a text in the new language that boosts sales in the target market as effectively as the source text in your domestic market. What is needed is transcreation.

Transcreation: a household word to some – unknown to many

Let’s say that an importer is about to market an American shoe polish in Scandinavia. The manufacturer sends over a marketing promo text. The copywriter is an American, and the text has been written for the US market. It could read something like this:

“Life-changing NoDullShine™ shoe polish with its revolutionary water-repelling properties and long-lasting shine will bring your experience of footwear to the next level. You will never look at a pair of shoes the same way again. No one will outshine you when you wear NoDullShine™.”

Should this text undergo transcreation? Most probably.

No one will outshine you when you wear NoDullShine™.

A skilled translator would have no problems producing a grammatically faultless version of this text in their own mother tongue. But, in this case, loyally translating the words and precisely replicating the tone of the text could actually be doing the client a major disservice. As it stands, this message, however perfectly rendered in the local language, is unlikely to boost sales of shoe polish in Denmark, Norway or Sweden.


Because such puffery is fundamentally at odds with Scandinavian culture. Scandinavians are unlikely to buy the idea that a shoe polish will improve their lives dramatically. Nor will they be easily persuaded that simply using a specific brand of shoe polish will make them outshine their peers.

Defining it

Transcreation is to take a text that already exists in one language and create a new one that achieves the same goals, but in a way that is tailored to the cultural norms and expectations of the target audience. This process is also called copy-adaptation. The goal of transcreation is a marketing text that actually makes the reader want to buy the product. A successfully transcreated product presentation of NoDullShine™ may have an entirely different wording in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. The only rule for transcreation is that the target text should make the reader want to buy this shoe polish.

Who can transcreate?

Some translators are also very good at transcreation. But many of the most talented transcreators are not formally trained translators at all; they may be copywriters, musicians or journalists.

The transcreation specialists at Samtext are a highly diverse group of people. One of the very best is a professional cellist, who played in a symphony orchestra before he joined us. Another was the general manager of a radio station, who headed an 11-strong Cuban orchestra in his sparetime.

Transcreation: read it, then put it aside

What all our transcreators have in common is that they are great content writers and masters of persuasion. They are able to distance themselves from the source text. They can read it, put it aside and then write something that really hits the mark in their own linguistic and cultural paradigm. Sometimes it is only necessary to tweak the source text a little. Occasionally, it involves writing something entirely new.

So, do you want your text to sell something? Then it must make the reader want to buy! Ask for transcreation when you want your advertising copy or marketing text to work just as effectively in a different language. Feel free to call +47 22 80 52 00, or use this form:

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    “It must make the reader want to buy!”
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