What Is Transcreation And Why Is It So Important? | OLIVER

There is no “one size fits all” approach in the global market. That’s where transcreation – translation and re-creation – comes in. OLIVER Sales and Marketing Executive, Susan Foley, looks at the process of transcreation.

As big brands compete for global market share the “one size fits all” approach to marketing has been discarded in favour of a more considered alternative. Marketers are evaluating cultural dimensions of target markets, gaining an understanding of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and purposefully tailoring their campaigns to resonate within these markets. Therein lies the challenge.


Take the top 5 global languages: Mandarin, English, Hindustani, Spanish and Russian and consider the vast linguistic and cultural differences existing within this spectrum. One can only begin to imagine the enormous challenge of communicating to such expansive audiences.

Then consider, if you will, the prospect of global marketing. As brands and businesses look for agencies to partner with in their quest for world domination, Transcreation – a holistic approach to communication localisation – has emerged in response to industry needs.

What Is Transcreation And Why Is It So Important?

Transcreation (translation and re-creation) essentially combines the discipline of translation with the art of interpretation. It is the process by which communications produced for a local market are re-evaluated and re-configured to appeal to a culturally disparate audience. The transcreation process involves gaining an understanding of a target market and carefully tailoring communications by employing suitable language, imagery, style and tone for effective messaging and optimal appeal. Considerations for Transcreation Include:


Literal translation of communications poses problems. At the very least text could be o_ -message and fail to resonate with target audiences. At worst, text could o_ end audiences, cause embarrassment and permanently damage a brand.

Many successful and high profile campaigns taglines or puns are “lost in translation”, for example the KFC’s “Finger Lickin Good” taglines’ nearest Chinese approximation “Eat your Fingers Off” – does not make for an appetizing proposition.

Equally, local vernacular can alter the meaning of a word as Clairol discovered when they introduced their “Mist Stick Curling Iron” to the market. The company was oblivious to the fact that “mist” is slang for manure in Germany, a market with significant potential.


The benefit of local knowledge cannot be underestimated. Images and colours impact diversely with different cultures and a failure to recognise this can adversely affect campaigns.

A powerful example of this can be drawn from Pepsi’s experience in South East Asia. Pepsi’s decision to change the colour of vending machines from deep blue to light blue prompted a significant drop in sales. Upon examination, this was attributed to the fact that blue is associated with death and mourning in the region.

Cultural Practices

In 2008 HSBC introduced their highly effective “Glocalization” strategy. This campaign “Think Globally, Act Locally” comprised a series of advertisements demonstrating how gestures are interpreted differently by different cultures. For example, displaying the soles of your feet is considered offensive in Thailand, whilst simple hand gestures are construed as rude in Greece.

This campaign powerfully endorses the importance of local knowledge when embarking on a customised marketing campaign.

Legal Practices

Some countries prohibit advertising directed at children, others ban the promotion of certain products, such as tobacco or alcohol. Countries such as Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium ban comparative advertising. It is important to know the parameters of target markets and to operate within the confines of local practices.

Each of the aforementioned examples serve to demonstrate the incredible challenges presented and risks associated with global marketing. Failure to identify, understand and communicate with target audiences can result in a fallout that can range from public embarrassment and campaign failure, to financial loss and complete brand destruction.

Typical Qualities For Good Transcreation

Effective transcreation strengthens brand perception at a local level and provides transferable global customer experience, ensuring strategic consistency and brand positioning.

In an ideal world, local and international transcreation teams should be involved in the campaign conception process.  This ensures strategies benefit from global and local considerations. Typically, however, transcreation teams are engaged after the primary campaign strategy has been devised and executed.

Transcreation teams should comprise experts in market research, cultural consultation, marketing, in-market writing, editing and copywriting. Each should possess an excellent knowledge of source and target languages and cultural backgrounds. They should be of understanding and communicating messages, style, image and emotions.

OLIVER is passionate about transcreation, we believe it is an art-form, a contemporary challenge that, with clever and considered execution, is capable of enhancing brand positioning on a global scale. We invest significant resources assembling the right team for each project to ensure our transcreated work is relevant and engaging and that it reaches intended target audiences efficiently and effectively. We go to great lengths to ensure that customers experience and benefit from the art of transcreation, in its purest form.


If you’d like to find out more about how OLIVER helped Adidas transcreate their global campaign check out this case study.  Or if you’d like to know how OLIVER can help you transcreate your global campaigns, get in touch.

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