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Four examples of great transcreation (and one blooper)

Transcreation is a term that’s used a lot in the localization industry. However, have you seen how it actually works in action? Here, we present four examples of great transcreation to show exactly what it can do.

But, before we get started, just to be clear…..

What is transcreation?

Transcreation is essentially creative translation. While conventional translation usually closely follows the source text, transcreation creatively adapts this material for its new target audience.

It takes high-impact messages and reworks them for maximum effect in new cultural contexts. Combining the skills of translation and copywriting, it’s used in particular for marketing and advertising content, where creativity is at a premium.

This kind of content often relies on idiomatic language, wordplay, humour and cultural insight to achieve its goals, so it often doesn’t translate well on a word-for-word basis.

For taglines, slogans and other types of shorter marketing content, transcreation often works better.

Here are some examples which demonstrate how…

Great transcreation example #1: Volkswagen – “Das Auto”

Why does Volkswagen use its classic strapline “Das Auto” in non-German-speaking countries around the world?

It reinforces the manufacturer’s German pedigree, a country which is renowned globally for quality cars.  The strapline provides “cultural authenticity” for the brand, so Volkswagen chose to not translate (or transcreate) it.

Except in Brazil. In the 20th century, this country was a major manufacturing centre for Volkswagen. So much so, Brazilians perceived Volkswagen as a “native brand”. To them it wasn’t German, it was Brazilian.

A different approach was required: a transcreation of “Das Auto” for the Brazilian market.

When transcreated, the Brazilian Portuguese strapline became: “Você conhece, Você confia” or “You know, You trust”.  It neatly summed up the local familiarity with and affection for the brand in the language they related to most: their own.

Great transcreation example #2: Haribo –  “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso”

The German confectionary manufacturer Haribo has built a global brand making sweets that are supposed to be for kids, but grown-ups like to snack on too.

This cross-generational appeal is brilliantly conjured up in the original German tagline: “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso”. Translated into English, this means: “Haribo makes children happy, and grown-ups too”.

Crucially, however, that word-for-word translation lacks the internal rhyme of the original that creates its playful, childlike quality.

So Haribo decided to transcreate its slogan for different markets. In English, it became “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”. The same message and playful tone is achieved through a simple but incredibly effective transcreation.

“Vive un sabor mágico, ven al mundo Haribo” is the Spanish version. In English this translates as “Experience a magical taste, come to the world of Haribo”, but in Spanish it has the trademark Haribo rhyme and catchy rhythm.

This approach has been so successful for Haribo that it has transcreated its slogan in more than a dozen languages. Ads featuring these transcreated slogans are still making a big impact on consumers around the world, as reported by the leading Ad Awareness YouGov Brand Index score in the UK in March 2019.

For Haribo, it seems that slogans taste sweeter when adapted to their own cultural contexts.

Great transcreation example #3:  De Beers – “Diamonds are forever”

Here’s a 24-carat example of very clever transcreation.

In 1948, De Beers introduced one of the most admired slogans of all time: “Diamonds are forever”. It has appeared in every one of the company’s engagement adverts since and was selected as slogan of the 20th-century by Advertising Age.

However, when the luxury jeweller wanted to expand into the Chinese market, it realised that the classic phrase needed a little cultural adaptation. Translated literally, it lost its emotional resonance and suggested qualities of physical durability – “a diamond lasts forever” in contrast to the original meaning of “a diamond can be forever treasured”.

In a masterpiece of transcreation, De Beers opted for a subtly different approach: 钻石恒久远,一颗永流传. Translated literally, this means “One diamond is forever, it can be passed from generation to generation”.

The English back-translation doesn’t do this mini-masterpiece justice. In Mandarin, it has a poetic ring, making it memorable and sophisticated for Chinese audiences while still retaining the original concept of eternal value expressed in the original.

A classy example of transcreation, we hope you’ll agree.

Great transcreation example #4: Intel – “Sponsors of tomorrow”

You can’t fit the same computer chip into every circuit board and expect it to work perfectly. Translated slogans are the same.

In 2009, Intel launched a new global marketing campaign based around the line “Intel: Sponsors of tomorrow”. However, the microprocessor giant was smart enough to realise that this would not work well in a literal translation for the Brazilian market.

In fact, to Latin American ears, the Portuguese phrase “de mañana” [of tomorrow] has connotations which suggest a casual, non-urgent approach to business which is clearly not the intended message.

Instead, Intel decided to transcreate the line, which became:  “Apaxionados pelo futuro” or “In love with the future”. Appealing to the “passionate” nature of the Brazilian cultural identity, it keeps the spirit and message of the original slogan but gives it an authentic regional twist.

Blooper example: American Airlines – “Fly in leather” 

To round this article off, we have included a somewhat humorous example of how the choice not to transcreate can have unintended consequences.

“Fly in leather” was a campaign by American Airlines, promoting its luxury first-class seats.

Unfortunately, the Spanish translation the airline used was not so enticing: “Vuela en cuero” literally meant “Fly naked”. Although the campaign is a distant memory, the mistranslation lives on.

With transcreation, this kind of blooper wouldn’t have happened. That’s because it’s about adapting the message, rather than translating the words as the bare minimum (pun intended).

In conclusion

We hope these four examples of great transcreation have provided some insight as to how the process works and, perhaps more importantly, the impact that it can have.

At Alpha Lifestyle, we believe that cultural adaptation is at the heart of great localization. As we’ve seen, effective transcreation is a really important part of that package.

That’s why we have an extensive team of in-house transcreators, who are experienced in adapting our clients’ content to work perfectly in new cultural contexts.

Get in touch

Do you have any questions about transcreation and how it might work for your brand? Email us at lifestyle@thisisalpha.com.