We all have witnessed it: big, successful companies featuring outstanding products and services, with a shiny marketing and communication strategy in their native language, that fail miserably when it comes to selling abroad.
Why? Because they take things for granted.
Globalization, which is justifiably taken for granted nowadays, comes with many advantages for industries and companies of all sizes, as they are no longer constrained by traditional boundaries such as geographical availability or knowledge of local languages.
Anybody can sell anything anywhere, but a quick reality check shows that it might not be that simple.
Anybody with a deep knowledge of their target audience can sell anything anywhere.
A complex recipe for success
You can already find thousands of quality posts explaining how to find your niche audience, create funnels and multiply your passive income. But we work with languages and cultures, and we know that there is a deeper layer below all these marketing techniques where a bond between the seller and the buyer is created.
A marketing strategy needs to understand the target audience to be successful. Some brands try to create global messages to appeal an international audience, but the task soon proves to be harder than expected.
Why? Because every culture has a distinct set of values, and if your company wants to craft a message that connects your brand with those values, a “one-size-fits-all” strategy will not work: you will only touch the surface of those values and your message will soon be forgotten.
You need to reach deeper. How? The answer might be transcreation.
Transcreation: how does it work?
When you create a text, you charge it with overt and hidden meanings, nuances and cultural references that reveal a deep (and sometimes unknowing) understanding of a culture. If you simply translate this kind of text, your audience may not know — or care — about the references you used, so your translation will be formally correct yet feel void, impersonal and foreign.
If you are trying to advertise a product, a service or a tourist destination, the idea behind the message is more important than the shape of the message itself. You have a purpose, and your message is just a means to an end. Therefore, wouldn’t you change the message if that helps obtain the expected reaction from your audience, thus meet your goal?
That’s what transcreation is all about.
Transcreators grab the core purpose of your message and, using the implicit and explicit codes of their own language and culture, reshape it to trigger the same effect of the original text in the new audience.
Isn’t transcreation just overpriced translation?
Easy: When you translate, you are obviously carrying a message from one language to another; however, keeping the original shape of that message is usually of key importance. In localization, you also take into account the values and cultural differences of your audience, but you are still working with a source text that must be followed.
In transcreation, the original text is used only as reference, but the transcreator does not have to be faithful at any cost: transcreated versions capture the essence and the intention of the original message but does the job much better than a literal translation.
Warning for content managers: The changes might be so dramatic that a back translation (that is, translating the text back into the source language) might look completely different from the original. Do not worry, that is usually a good sign that implies transcreators took their time to analyse the root of the message and create a similar image in their language. If in doubt, ask the locals about the impact or effect of the transcreated text.
Tourist talk: the two sides of you message
A single concept might need different paths to reach different audiences, and the tourism industry has several great examples to help illustrate this.
To put it simply, tourism promotion is the art of selling a specific destination to audiences with different backgrounds and interests in a way that connects what the destination has to offer with what the traveller knows, feels and looks for.
Take travel guides. We know that — statistically speaking — tourists from different nationalities have specific priorities when going abroad: food, architecture, leisure activities… Therefore, transcreating a message in order to highlight those priorities and make the destination look more appealing to them would make a lot of sense, wouldn’t it?
Take a countryside B&B: peaceful, gorgeous surroundings, homemade dishes in nearby restaurants… There are so many attractive features you can use to describe it! However, depending on the country of origin or your potential guests, you may want to highlight certain aspects over others: privacy for your UK visitors, hiking trails for Germans, local food for Italians or sightseeing landmarks for the Japanese.
Take a moment to look at the highly sensitive fibre we are dealing with; obviously, you cannot leave this kind of work in the hands of someone who does not have a deep understanding of the target culture and knows what drives people to buy, travel or engage in certain activities, avoiding cultural pitfalls and embarrassing misunderstandings in the meantime.
Transcreation is, by definition, made by locals for locals.
A WISE INVESTMENT FOR THE LONG TERM
The above examples are just a few scattered ideas of the many perks that justify transcreation over straightforward translation services in these cases.
But let’s get to the point: which are the main benefits of transcreating your message?
Your message is designed to connect with a local audience, so the target market you are approaching will be more willing to accept your products as a natural extension of their needs and preferences.
Speaking your customers’ language using their own imagery means that your company cares about them more than your competitors. Subsequently, they will be more inclined to choose you, knowing that you understand them better than anyone.
Brand reputation and recognition:
A brand that visibly cares about local sensibilities is usually perceived as a friendly party in the domestic economy. People talk nice about your campaigns and products on social media and consumer forums, and this behaviour can only lead to increased sales.
Over time, the transcreated versions of your products and services may become an integral part of the local landscape, which will in turn make it even easier for you to develop your portfolio and test new business with an amiable, receptive audience.
Hugely successful companies like Western Digital, Disney or Booking.com have significantly strengthened their presence in local markets worldwide thanks to a nicely designed transcreation strategy. Worth a try, don’t you think?