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Written by Steven Bussey
on July 22, 2021

Transcreation is a necessary step in global branding. Transcreation goes further than translation by culturally adapting a piece of content so that it is relevant in a totally different cultural context. It ensures all details will resonant with users in a particular locale, tug at their emotions, and encourage them to buy the product. Transcreation entails the following:

  • Ensuring culturally relevant imagery and emojis
  • Updating links to be sure they go to a landing page that is appropriate for a particular geography
  • Considering the meaning of colors in a different culture
  • Ensuring idioms make sense in the target culture.
  • Knowing whether you can use an informal tone to speak to a target audience
  • Reworking a slogan or product name to render it culturally appropriate
  • Understanding what causes people to have specific emotions in each culture, such as happiness, sadness, and laughter.

Proper transcreation is critical for the success of your brand in a new target market. A mistake can, at best, require marketing materials and products to be redone. At worst, mistakes can cost sales and brand equity that will require considerable money to recoup. 

Although transcreation is important in any new target market, the need is greatest when Western brands enter Asian cultures because the histories, religions, alphabets, and understandings of time differ so much. For example, Western societies have a linear understanding of time, and many Asian ones have a circular understanding. Also, Asian societies also are more group-oriented, and clans have traditionally conducted commerce with heavy government involvement. Colors also tend to have more meaning in some Asian countries than they do in the West.

Here are a few examples of transcreation done well that promoted the brand favorably and transcreation mistakes that cost money in relaunches and brand equity.

Slogans

Slogans - McD-KFC

Simply translating slogans often isn't enough when brands enter a new market. Sometimes the brand will need to develop a new slogan. 

Intel, for example, realized that it would need to change its slogan "Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow" when it launched in Brazil because to Brazilians, the word tomorrow implied that the brand wouldn't deliver on its promises for some time. The slogan became "Intel: In Love with the Future."

Another good example is McDonald's and its slogan, "I'm lovin' it." McDonalds realized that love is a serious emotion in China, and folks would not love a brand. Instead, they transcreated it into a phrase that translated "I just like it," which worked in that culture while still promoting a consistent brand message internationally.

On the other hand, Pepsi made a mistake by not transcreating its slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi generation" in China. The translated slogan read, "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." Worshipping ancestors is a part of Chinese culture, so the mistake was offensive. 

Coke also made a mistake in China using written characters to render its name phonetically, but the characters unfortunately rendered "bite the wax tadpole" instead. Later, however, Coke relaunched in the market after conducting considerable language and cultural research. It chose characters that meant "Happiness in the Mouth" instead.

Likewise, KFC's first entrance into the Chinese market was less than successful because its famous slogan "Finger-lickin' good" translated into "We'll eat your fingers off." KFC spent considerable money to rectify the misstep and now has more than 900 restaurants in China. 

Volkswagen lost much of the goodwill its brand had built up in Brazil by deciding not to change “Das Auto” – or “The Car” and instead relying on the literal translation. While not inherently wrong, it emphasized the car's German origins in a country that had produced Volkswagens for many years.  The return to German roots failed to generate a positive emotion with the Brazilians.

Products

Rolls-Royce astutely changed the name of its car, the Silver Mist, to the Silver Shadow before releasing it in Germany.  In German, the word "mist" means manure.

On the other hand, Mitsubishi failed to change the name of its Pajero. Pajero is a sexual slang term in Spanish. The company had to spend considerable money to finance a relaunch with the name of Montero.

Colors

Colors have certain meanings and nuances in different cultures. To be sensitive to that, Red Bull energy drink changed its colors when launching in China. Instead of the blue and silver can with the words "Red Bull" and the image of the bull in red, they used red and gold cans with red bulls and black writing. Red and gold are seen as lucky colors in China. The company also re-stylized the bull to be culturally relevant. 

Images

When Procter & Gamble first started selling Pampers in Japan, it used the image of a stork carrying a baby, which is a common myth in the United States. However, that image has no meaning in Japan and was simply confusing.  Likewise, Gerber made a mistake in using its image of a baby on the jar in Africa. In that culture, products feature a photo of what's inside because many consumers can't read. Nike also had to recall thousands of shoes because a decoration on them resembled the Arabic word for "Allah."

When companies launch a brand or product in a different target country, they spend considerable money to do so. If the brand or product is marketed in a way that's irrelevant, or worse, offensive in the new culture, a relaunch will be necessary. Depending upon the gravity of the error, the company may need to spend considerable money to recover its brand reputation, in addition to redoing marketing materials and products. By hiring an expert or outsourcing transcreation, the company can save considerable money and brand equity in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  • When a company enters a new country, translating its marketing content and product names isn't enough. Transcreation, which takes into account all the cultural nuances of the target market, is necessary.
  • Transcreation looks at images, product names, slogans, links, and idioms to make sure they are culturally relevant and will promote the brand effectively in the new culture.   
  • Companies can make costly mistakes if they fail to transcreate their brands and products for new markets.

Andovar is a worldwide provider of translation services and has more than 5,000 localization specialists on its team. These translators are from several countries and understand the nuances that affect marketing in their native land. We can transcreate your marketing content efficiently, accurately, and thoroughly.  Contact us online to begin your transcreation project.

Contact Andovar

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