Transcreation versus Translation: Do you know the difference?

09 February 2021

If an alien landed their UFO in your office’s parking lot tomorrow morning, how would you explain to that alien that they need to pay for their parking space?

Would you: 

        1. Send them a link to the local authority website and ask them to read the ‘parking’ section.

        2. Sit them down and explain to them what a parking space is, what money is, and how money and parking spots connect to provide a public service to              Earth’s citizens. 

If you’re the kind of earthling we hope you are, hopefully, you answered ‘b’, and if you understand why ‘b’ is more helpful than ‘a’, then congratulations, you already understand transcreation!


Allow us to explain. 

When you introduce your product or service into a new market, you’re taking a risk and assuming that your new (alien) audience understands precisely what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. Translating your content takes care of the basics and brings you one step closer to your audience because you’re speaking their language. 


So, what’s transcreation?

Transcreation turns closeness into brand affinity by developing creative, culturally adaptive content that makes sense for your new (alien) audience. It eliminates the marketing and advertising gap that might present itself when you take your original copy and take it into a language that doesn’t ‘translate well’. 


A sugary sweet example of deliciously well-done transcreation

All over the world, kids and adults alike enjoy Haribo candy, but did you know that the famous rhyming jingle “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo” is a transcreation of the original German slogan, which didn’t translate well into other languages? Below is the original tagline in German, and a few other tagline transcreations that have been customized to market Haribo candy in over 150 countries. (source).

German: “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso” - “Haribo makes children happy, and adults as well”

French: “Haribo c’est beau la vie, pour les grands et les petits” - “Haribo, life is beautiful, for grownups and kids”

Spanish: “Vive un sabor mágico, ven al mundo Haribo” - “Experience a magical taste, come to the world of Haribo”

Needless to say, Haribo’s transcreation strategy has worked wonders, and they’re a household confectionary brand that is recognised and well-loved the world over. A sugary-sweet triumph, made possible by the cunning work of multi-lingual creative writers, well versed in global marketing and advertising.


...And Translation? 

Translating your content into other languages is the first step towards getting your brand in front of an international audience. It’s the simple act of recreating your exact words in the desired target language. Transcreating your marketing and advertising is the second step. If you’re still scratching your head over which option is best for your brand, then here are three ways you can qualify if your content needs a creative touch: 


What is your content goal? 

If you design content to inform, instruct, or educate, you can often rely on a simple translation, as these content goals are clear in their transactional intent purpose. However, suppose your content goal is to advertise and market your offering. In that case, you may need to consider transcreation because the content goal is to persuade and evoke emotion to drive action. 

A creative writer is better positioned to enrich and localize a global brand identity than a standard linguist who works in translation alone. An e-Arabization transcreation specialist will be able to capture your customer’s heart on a worldwide scale and evoke emotion with your local market. 

Decide on your content goal, and let the purpose of your text guide your choice. 


Have you got a creative brief? 

A good transcreation is only as good as the creative brief. Transcreation specialists are more like copywriters than translators because they need additional information to colour how they interpret and reshape the words for your intended audience. A translator doesn’t require a brief to complete a word-for-word language change, because the content on the page is the truth that guides the linguist. 

Research your content to ensure the original messaging still carries meaning in other languages. Let the idea you want to convey to your audience inform the talent you hire for your project. 


Have you got the time and budget available? 

Transcreation takes longer than translation because it demands creativity and an ability to interpret ideas without losing the feeling and expression that connect it with the end-reader. The time it takes to transcreate a piece of marketing, or advertising copy will be longer than the time it takes to translate an instruction manual literally. Transcreation requires critical engagement with the word-choices in the source language that translation does not need to consider as frequently. 

Rushing your communication is one of the easiest ways to fall-flat with your audience, and as language is the life thread that connects us with our customers, they deserve careful attention.

Plan your marketing and advertising content way ahead of time so you can afford to provide your audience with the best possible experience of your global brand. 


Stand out, be bold, be creative! 

In a worldwide marketplace where culture, religion, regional dialect, popular references and age-old traditions are all wrapped up in the things we buy, sell and subscribe to, it’s more important than ever to creatively communicate marketing and advertising so we can bridge the emotional gap between what we say, and what we want our customers to feel and do. 

With friends like us in your creative corner, there’s no excuse for your content to feel alien and unfamiliar when it’s presented in new languages or seen in a new market for the first time. Next time you work on a product launch or seasonal campaign, ask yourself if your content could do with the Haribo effect. Ask yourself if your words could be sweeter. 

Struggling to communicate with your customer? Need some help wording your marketing? Visit to see how we help companies word their offerings, or drop us a message.