How Translation and Transcreation Can Combine for a Better Experience

To express high level messaging and extend the brand’s emotional intent, you might want to consider a more refined type of localization: transcreation.


Customers don’t just buy, they also experience. From how effectively your product meets their needs to the ease of its purchase, that end-to-end experience is a combination of many factors.

Translation is one crucial aspect that allows shoppers to connect with and understand the rest of their buying experience. But for content translation to truly resonate localization is required, too. These two terms–translation and localization–are already known as the baseline and is already a given when creating global content. And sometimes, beyond the basics of localization, in order to express the high level messaging and extend the brand’s emotional intent, you might want to consider a more refined type of localization known as transcreation.

What’s the Difference?

Translation focuses on changing one language into another. Localization converts important details that translation can overlook–like currency, address formatting, cultural references, imagery, etc.–to tailor a product, service, or piece of content for a specific market.

Then there’s transcreation: the most nuanced way of converting the core of your message for a new locale. Great transcreation transforms your aspirational messaging and brand concepts so that they appear to have been completely devised in that local language. Because transcreation meticulously affects even the smallest details, this is a deeper and more involved process than translation or localization.

But the secret most translation providers won’t tell you is that you can mix and match between the three. Just because transcreation is right for part of your website or mobile app doesn’t mean it’s right for the entire medium or channel. In fact, deploying the highest level of translation service for all of your content could cost too much, take too long, and likely not produce the desired ROI.

How do you find the right mix for you?

First, consider which languages you need. If you’re translating into multiple languages, do you have the same goal for each one? Maybe there are one or two languages that you are exploring as a test before a larger multilingual launch. For these languages, one approach might be to translate or localize a very limited amount of digital content such as your high impact, high converting content (or minimum viable content) before investing heavily in transcreation for any brand messaging or brand concepts.

Then look at your content. Are there taglines or cultural references that won’t resonate with an international audience? Football analogies make as much sense to a British audience as cricket analogies do to Americans. Fortunately, localization services can address these types of cultural differences. However, there are markets where sports analogies might not have any cultural relevance at all, and another category of analogy or imagery could express that concept better. Transcreation uncovers that cultural nuance for each audience so that you can fully express your message for that market.

Finally, slice up your content and prioritize it. Which parts really need the most time, effort, and investment? Creative content generally requires more locale-specific copywriting, which, at its core, is what transcreation is. Content that is meant to express the aspirational would be a good candidate for transcreation. But more structured content can simply be translated. Ancillary or basic support content, as another example, might be better suited for a one-pass translation or even machine translation. Because less nuance is involved, translation is quicker and always less expensive than transcreation.

Learn More

Smartling makes these types of considerations and decisions for your content localization easy by automating the entire process and providing customers complete control and flexibility. This makes it possible to choose the processes that get nuance right the first time and that optimize your spend. Talk to our experts today to start scoping out your translation, localization, or transcreation needs.