Transcreation vs. translation: How they differ

transcreation vs translation

Transcreation and translation are two essential approaches to effective communication across language barriers. Businesses that want to expand globally need to understand when to choose one over the other, and how these language services can be harnessed to create a profound impact in an ever-expanding global marketplace. In this article, we discuss transcreation vs. translation to shed light on their unique roles and applications.

What is translation?

Translation is the process of converting text or content from one language (the source language) into another language (the target language) while retaining the original meaning and intended message as closely as possible. The primary goal of translation is to convey the information, ideas, and nuances of the source text accurately and clearly in the target language.

This process is a valuable skill that enables communication and the exchange of information between speakers of different languages. Translation plays a crucial role in various professional and personal contexts, ensuring that people can access information and ideas from around the world, regardless of linguistic barriers.

What is transcreation?

The transcreation definition is: a process in the field of language services where content is not just translated from one language to another but also creatively adapted to suit the cultural and emotional context of the target audience. The primary purpose of transcreation is to ensure that the content resonates with the local audience in a way that maintains the same emotional impact, intent, and engagement as the original content.

This process is particularly essential when dealing with advertising slogans, taglines, marketing materials, product names, and any content where the primary goal is to connect with an audience emotionally and culturally, rather than just providing a straightforward translation. The success of transcreation lies in the ability to strike a balance between remaining faithful to the original message and effectively engaging the target audience in their cultural and emotional context.

Transcreation vs. translation: The differences

Transcreation and translation are two distinct language-related processes, each serving different purposes. Here’s an overview of the differences between the two:


The primary purpose of translation is to maintain the original meaning and intent of the source text. It’s crucial in situations where precision and accuracy are paramount, such as legal documents, technical manuals, or scientific papers. Translators aim to provide a clear, coherent, and grammatically correct version of the source text in the target language, ensuring that the message is effectively communicated.

Transcreation, on the other hand, aims to adapt content, particularly in marketing, advertising, and branding, to resonate with the target audience on an emotional and cultural level. The primary goal is to evoke a specific response and engagement. It is is crucial for maintaining a consistent brand image and message across different cultural and linguistic contexts.


Translators work meticulously to find equivalents in the target language for words, phrases, and sentences. They prioritize linguistic and grammatical aspects while striving to minimize any ambiguity or misinterpretation. While translators may consider some cultural nuances, their primary goal is to maintain linguistic and semantic fidelity, often at the expense of cultural adaptation.

Transcreators are more like creative writers than literal translators. They not only translate but also rework the text, sometimes extensively, to create content that aligns with the cultural preferences, values, and emotional triggers of the target audience. In transcreation, the message may evolve or change to fit the cultural context. The focus is on achieving the same impact, not necessarily replicating the source text word for word.

Creative freedom

In traditional translation, creative freedom is relatively limited. Translators are expected to faithfully convey the source text’s meaning, style, and tone into the target language. Their primary focus is on linguistic accuracy, consistency, and clarity. They aim to faithfully reproduce the content without adding personal interpretations or embellishments.

Transcreation involves a high degree of creative freedom. Transcreators are not bound by the strict constraints of preserving the source text’s wording or style. Instead, they have the liberty to creatively adapt the content to achieve a specific emotional and cultural resonance in the target audience. Overall, transcreation is a more subjective process than translation.

SEO knowledge

Translators may need a basic understanding of SEO, especially if they are working on website content, product descriptions, or other online materials. This understanding can involve knowledge of keywords, meta tags, and SEO-friendly content structure. Translators may need to ensure that target language versions of web content maintain the same keyword relevance as the source language content.

Transcreators, particularly those working on marketing and advertising content, may need a more in-depth understanding of SEO in order to to maintain the original content’s marketing messages while optimizing it. They may be responsible for adapting keywords, taglines, and slogans to fit the target market’s search habits and linguistic preferences. This can involve a creative yet SEO-conscious approach.


Translation is generally a more efficient process in terms of time. Skilled translators can work relatively quickly to render a source text into a target language while maintaining accuracy. Since the primary goal of translation is to preserve the meaning of the source text, the time required is more predictable and can be estimated with reasonable accuracy.

Transcreation is often a more time-consuming process. It involves not only translation but also creative adaptation, which can be time-consuming as transcreators carefully craft the content to resonate with the target audience. The time required for transcreation can vary significantly based on the complexity of the content and the extent of creative adaptations needed. This makes estimating turnaround times more challenging.

Use cases

Contracts, patents, user manuals, and legal agreements require precise translation to ensure legal validity and accuracy. Novels, poems, and literary texts often require a balance between staying true to the author’s style and effectively conveying the story.

Transcreation, however, is generally required for other types of content. Slogans, ad campaigns, and marketing materials often require transcreation to ensure that they are engaging and persuasive in the target market. Product names, packaging, and promotional content also need to be culturally relevant and appealing to the local audience.


Translation is generally cost-effective when compared to transcreation because it primarily involves linguistic adaptation without extensive creative input. The cost of translation can often be estimated more easily based on factors such as word count or page count. Many translation services offer standardized pricing.

Transcreation tends to be more expensive than translation. The higher cost is due to the additional creative effort and expertise required to adapt the content for cultural and emotional resonance. The cost of transcreation can vary widely based on the level of creative adaptation needed, the complexity of the content, and the specific requirements of the project. It is often more challenging to provide fixed pricing for transcreation services.

Good examples of transcreation

To see just how transcreation differs from translation, we can look at some of the most popular advertising campaigns to see how brands adjusted their message to fit different international markets:

“Share a Coke” by Coca-Cola

The “Share a Coke” campaign was originally launched by Coca-Cola in Australia in 2011 and has since been replicated in various forms worldwide. The core idea of the “Share a Coke” campaign was to replace the Coca-Cola logo on their bottles with popular first names, nicknames, and even terms of endearment.

“Share a Coke” effectively adapted to the cultural nuances of each region it was launched in. In each country, they included culturally specific names to resonate with the local audience. Not only that, but in some countries, even the phrase “Share a Coke” was transcreated to convey the same message but with a different linguistic twist, ensuring it was catchy and culturally appropriate.

By incorporating local names and cultural references, Coca-Cola managed to create a personalized and emotionally resonant campaign that was easily shareable across different regions. This campaign demonstrates the power of transcreation in building a global brand with a local touch.

“Finger Lickin’ Good” by KFC

KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” campaign is one of the most iconic and enduring slogans in the fast-food industry. The campaign underwent a transcreation process when it was adapted for the Chinese market. The slogan was adapted as “吮指原味” (Shǔn zhǐ yuánwèi), meaning “Suck your fingers for the original flavor.”

. In many cultures, finger-licking might be considered impolite or unhygienic, but in this case, KFC’s transcreation embraced the concept as a positive and delicious experience. The idea of savoring the “original flavor” speaks to the Chinese preference for authentic and flavorful dishes.

Despite the cultural adaptation, KFC retained its brand identity by associating this transcreated slogan with the “Finger Lickin’ Good” campaign. This ensures that the essence of the KFC brand, known for its flavorful and indulgent fried chicken, is preserved.

“Let’s Go Places” by Toyota

Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places” campaign is an example of effective transcreation in the global automotive industry. Toyota, being a Japanese company, had a deep understanding of its home market. While the original English slogan is universal in its appeal, Toyota recognized the importance of emphasizing exploration and adventure in the context of Japanese culture.

Toyota’s adaptation of the campaign slogan in Japan is “いつでも、どこでも、GO” (Itsu demo, doko demo, GO), which translates to “Anytime, anywhere, GO.” This slogan maintains the universal and adventurous spirit of the original while making it sound natural and appealing in Japanese.

Toyota’s campaign in Japan often includes visual elements and symbols that resonate with the Japanese audience. For example, they might feature iconic Japanese landmarks or scenes of picturesque countryside drives, reinforcing the idea of going places in Japan’s diverse landscapes.

Transcreation vs. translation in localization

Translation and transcreation are two essential approaches used in the localization process to adapt content for specific linguistic and cultural contexts. Translation is used in localization primarily for content that requires linguistic accuracy and content fidelity without significant cultural adaptation. This means technical documents, legal contracts, medical records, and any similar content.

Transcreation in localization is used for content that requires a deep emotional and cultural connection with the local audience. It goes beyond traditional translation and focuses on creative adaptation to resonate with the target audience’s cultural and emotional context.

The process of transcreation is often found in the localization of marketing and advertising materials, including slogans, ad campaigns, branding messages, and any content that aims to maintain the brand’s identity while making it culturally relevant and engaging for the local audience. It is also useful for product naming and packaging design.

In many localization projects, a combination of translation and transcreation may be used. For instance, the core informational content on a website may undergo translation for accuracy, while marketing and branding materials, such as slogans and product descriptions, may be transcreated to maintain emotional resonance.

Transcreate and translate with POEditor

POEditor is a popular online translation management system that allows you to collaborate with translators and manage your localization projects. The platform facilitates communication between team members, and project managers can review, approve, or suggest changes as needed.

Various features can be used for both translation and transcreation tasks:

  • Machine translation (MT), so you can get a machine translation of your text as a starting point for your transcreation.
  • Glossaries of terms and phrases to ensure consistency across your translations.
  • Context field, that allows translators to see the source text in context, which can help them to produce more accurate and natural-sounding translations.
  • Translation memory (TM), so you can reuse them in future translations. This can save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you are translating a large volume of text.

Once the translation or transcreation is complete, you can review the text and approve it for publication. POEditor also offers a variety of export options, so you can easily export your translated text in the format that you need.

Summing it up

Transcreation, with its emphasis on creativity and cultural resonance, serves as the torchbearer for marketing, advertising, and emotionally charged content. On the other hand, translation, with its commitment to accuracy and linguistic faithfulness, ensures that information and meaning traverse linguistic boundaries seamlessly. While each has its place, the key to successful communication lies in knowing when to employ transcreation’s creative freedom and when to turn to translation’s fidelity.

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