Translation, Transcreation, or Adaptation: Which One Is Best for Your Company?

The capacity to determine which options are ideal for your company stems from a deep understanding of the definitions of translation, transcreation, and adaptation and the best time to use each.
Minnie Kasyoka

Minnie Kasyoka

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Whenever a brand decides to go global, the most important challenge to address (other than logistics, of course) is how to localize the company’s website to fit their newfound international audience’s consumption needs. But realizing that your original content won’t make it without modifications is not the only challenge you’ll face, since the bigger question is more about the approach should you be taking to make these modifications in the first place. Eventually, you’ll have to choose whether to go for translation, transcreation or content adaptation. 

Some marketers use these terms interchangeably when they are worlds apart in terms of meaning. The capacity to determine which options are ideal for your company stems from a deep understanding of the definitions of translation, transcreation, and adaptation; the best time to use them, and the value that each can add to your brand personality. This article elucidates these concepts one by one.

Translation as a first choice 

When targeting a foreign market, your new core audience must be able to read and understand crucial texts like technical documentation and product files—which is where translation comes in. Through translation, your organization can convert source texts from one language to another.

A major distinction between translation and other alternatives is that little to no creativity is required. As such, when used in isolation, translation might cost you your brand persona: memorable jokes and slogans would likely lose their creative touch. While the setbacks of translation can be ignored when working with technical documentation or product files, it is more likely that your marketing material won’t survive without a touch of creativity if translated.

Copywriting as a safer choice 

Unlike translators, copywriters do not work with source texts. They write everything from nothing—relying mostly on their journalism or communication skills, branding material provided and your business goals. Copywriters end up with completely unique texts that are written in your langage of choice. When they have the licence to create content unrestricted by existing blogs or copy, their creative juices can flow.

A copywriter first develops a strategy that considers the company’s target audience, business objectives and brand tone of voice. They then write the copy and await feedback on edits and approval—so you’ll still be in charge of the entire process. But, first, providing the copywriter with a coherent, comprehensive brief will help them create copy that matches your brand ambitions.

The best time to hire copywriting services is when you need marketing material or copy that is culturally-specific. That is, they are better suited for localization. If you have to choose between translating a blog and writing a new one for a different market, pick the latter. Remember that specific markets are compelled by particular topics. 

Understanding both social and cultural dynamics is key to optimizing your content strategy for your audience abroad. If you’ve never lived there or interacted with a certain audience, how will you understand what tone and text would make them tick? If your copy in a different market is the same as the source text your headquarter uses, you risk disseminating culturally insensitive content that could limit returns on investments. 

If you do not have the budget to write all copies from scratch, marketers advise you to adapt your website copy to the tastes and preferences of the target demographic.

…which brings us to adaptation

Also known as localization, adaptation refers to the process of manually rewriting or editing source texts to send specific messages to predetermined audiences. Just like copywriters, adaptation experts need comprehensive briefs to address the consumption needs of potential clients. These briefs provide clear directions with regards to the appropriate style and tone to be used. Adaptation professionals will help your company publish original visual content, like videos and images, in a different language that is conscious of both local cultural and social practices. But when is it valuable to rely on adaptation as a strategy for sharing compelling content with a global audience?

When Coca Cola rolled out its #ShareACoke campaign, they bought ad space all over the world, from America to the Asian Peninsula. Across all these markets, they adapted the copy used in commercials to make the text sound like a native speaker wrote it–they adopted cultural references, proverbs, and slang. For example, while #ShareACoke with John was common in English speaking countries, it wasn’t the common name printed in Coca Cola bottles sold in China or predominantly Muslim countries like Turkey. The company managed to create formidable enthusiasm with every audience they targeted. Your brand should especially use adaptation experts when optimizing web content, press releases and editorial content for success in specific in foreign markets. 

Transcreation

Between the three components discussed in this article, despite its valuable input, transcreation is perhaps the least famous. Transcreation is an amalgam of the words “translation” plus “creation”. Think of it as an intersection of copywriting and translation. It should be your brand’s go-to strategy when the business objective is to recreate content in a foreign language without misrepresenting the source text’s original intention. That is, it plays a substantial role in publishing compelling copies to a different market with dissimilar social/cultural contexts from your host country’s language needs.

Any international entity that seeks to localize their global content strategy while remaining loyal to a specific message should use transcreators. Transcreation is especially popular among marketers who want to make short marketing texts not only appealing but also catchy. If Pepsi had hired local transcreation experts, it would have avoided one of the greatest marketing fails in history. The company directly translated “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” from English to Chinese to mean that the products they sell could bring people’s ancestors back from the dead!

KFC made a similar mistake in China when the organization used the Mandarin equivalent of “Eat off your fingers” in place of the company’s slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good”.

Bringing it all together;

The best strategy for your company depends on your business needs. Who is your target audience? And where can you find them? What kind of content are you distributing? Like we’ve mentioned before, product files and technical documentation are rarely affected by a translator’s ability to generate good content. But, any attempt to reveal your brand persona or identity should be handled with a lot of care and creativity. If Pepsi and KFC’s marketing team had this realization in time, they would have avoided most of the mess their ad copies created.

If you’re experiencing any challenges picking the right service for your unique needs, reach out to expert freelancers in translation, adaptation, copywriting, and transcreation available on Ureed.com, the region’s top freelance services marketplace.