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Transcreation: What is it? Which texts need it?


When you advertise for your company, you have a clear goal: you want to sell your company and its products and services to your target groups. Effective, catchy messages, like a good slogan, enhance your company’s success.

You can try to describe the intention behind slogans and other messages in corporate communication as clearly and accurately as you like, but ultimately the impact of the content depends on emotions, tonality, style, and linguistic and cultural nuances.

Advertising: it’s all or nothing // do or die

Advertising can be tricky even in one’s own language. Coop, a major Swiss supermarket chain, learned this the hard way a couple of years ago, when it led its summer ad campaign with the question, “Chame das grille?”. This caused confusion with its customers in German-speaking Switzerland, where “grillieren” and not “grillen” is used in this context.

“Grillen” is not a Swiss German word, but comes from High German as spoken in Germany. The localisation of this ad for Switzerland – adjusting the language for a different target audience – failed here.

This is an example where only one language is involved. Just imagine how many potential linguistic and cultural blunders a company has to watch out for when formulating its messages in multiple languages.

How can companies do this successfully? How can you be sure that your company’s message is perceived by your target groups the way you want it to be?

We have the answer: transcreation. Provided with the support of language professionals who:

  1. are experts in the linguistic and cultural features of your target market
  2. write creatively
  3. and are very familiar with your industry.

This way to transcreation!

Contact us

Transcreation: what is it?

Unlike “translation” and other linguistic terms, “transcreation” is not a word you’ll find in your standard dictionary. “Transcreation” combines two words:

1. “Translation”: the rendering of text in another language
2. “Creation”: the act of producing something new

Transcreation is the free, creative rendering of a message in another language for a particular target audience in a particular market. The goal of transcreation is not to stick rigidly to the source text. Instead, transcreation aims to:

… communicate the same key message …

… achieve the same effect …

… evoke the same feelings …

… use the same style and tonality …

... as the source text.

The source text serves as a reference for the language professional. The result of transcreation is not a translation but a new text written in the target language for the new target group and new target market. The key features of transcreation at a glance:

(open checklist as a PDF)

For which texts do you need a transcreation?

Naturally, when rendering hard facts in another language, you don’t need transcreation. A stock report, for instance, tells readers about the trend of a stock’s price and what’s been happening at the company to elicit such a trend. This material is factual, non-emotional: what you need is a specialist translation.

This is different, however, with texts like the following:

  • slogans
  • adverts and billboards
  • headlines
  • TV commercials
  • film and book titles
  • e-screens
  • banners
  • claims
  • special expressions

These kinds of text communicate messages through emotions, tone and style and they often play with the language and images. Here, cultural and linguistic nuances are especially important and literal translations rarely work. This is where you need a transcreation service. Special aspects of transcreation: The text is often very short.

Only one part of a text may require transcreation, e.g. selected parts of a website. Our experience with websites shows that around 5% of a website consists of titles, slogans and similar text requiring a transcreation.

The other 95% is often technical content – such as product descriptions – and material that addresses customers directly but not like a slogan, claim or advert. This type of material requires a specialist or marketing translation.

Linguistic nuances are especially important and literal translations rarely work.

Slogans and related types of text are supposed to support a company’s marketing goals over a period of several years. This means it’s especially important that they are perceived correctly and do not put the company at risk, e.g. by tarnishing its image, because cultural and linguistic nuances were ignored or mishandled.

Another example: transcreation by CLS for Helsana

The health insurer Helsana used the transcreation and translation services of CLS for its national campaign entitled “Für ihren Ausgleich engagiert”.

The campaign, which also had its own website, was built on a mix of:

  1. key messages that were put into English, French and Italian through transcreation
  2. technical texts that were rendered in English, French and Italian in specialist translations

The website that Helsana temporarily launched looks like this:

Transcreation by CLS for Helsana

(enlarge screenshot)

1. Key messages – transcreation:

The language professionals at CLS created English, French and Italian versions of the German title and claim of the campaign website and the related lead in transcreation process:

Original text in German:

Transcreation in English:


and Italian:

2. Technical text – specialist translation:

The website content for each of these key message was rendered in English, French and Italian by the specialist translators of CLS. For example:

Original text in German:

Translations in English, French and Italian:


When I order a transcreation, what information will my language service provider need?

The more detailed the information you provide, the more accurate the result will be in the target language. In addition to the source and target language, your language service provider will need to know some specific things about the transcreation you want. This includes answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of a text is it? Slogan? Book title? TV commercial? etc.
  • What is the context of the transcreation? A campaign for a new product? Website for a new market? etc.
  • What is the tonality and style in which you want to communicate? Formal? Colloquial? Humorous? etc.
  • In what format do you want the target text to be delivered? Are there restrictions on text length?
  • Is there any reference material available? For example, catch phrases, terminology, language and style guidelines?

If the transcreation is for a company campaign and you have formulated a creative briefing, please forward the briefing to your language service provider. This gives our language professionals important information at a glance. If other information is still required for the transcreation, your language service provider will ask you for it.

How does the transcreation team at CLS Communication work?

As soon as we have your source text and all the information we need for the transcreation, our language professionals get to work. For a transcreation to be successful, it is essential that the language professionals are not only creative but are also familiar with your industry and are experts in the language and culture of your target market.

What process do the language professionals follow in transcreation?

  1. They analyse the content in the original language and the requirements of the transcreation.
  2. They determine the extent to which the original text and the text to be created differ from one another – in terms of language, culture and target group.
  3. They compose three versions of the text in the target language which have the same effect on the audience in the target market and trigger the same response as the original text in the original market.
  4. They get your feedback on these three versions and decide on any revisions with you.
  5. They deliver the definitive version to you in the target language – one text that is optimally geared to your target group and target market.

Tackle your transcreation project with CLS!

Are you planning an advertising campaign in multiple languages? Do you need apt slogans to help you realise your marketing objectives? Do the headlines on your website need to be localised?

Contact us. We would be pleased to help you with our transcreation service. CLS Communication writes, revises and translates for you – so that your message hits the mark.

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