When it comes to meeting the needs of global brands, translation alone doesn’t cut it. That’s why businesses operating internationally often have to recur to localization and transcreation services.
But, as we begin to learn about these solutions, we may notice that they seem to be similar solutions to a similar problem. If we take a closer look at these services (transcreation vs. localization), we may start to notice that they’re not as redundant as they seem. In fact, transcreation and localization are complementary solutions, facilitating different aspects of a brand’s global expansion efforts.
This article is part of our Full Guide to Localization – Check it out to find out an entire list of resources that will help you expand your brand!
Transcreation vs Localization: Different Priorities
While an expert translator might be able to transmit wordplay, humor, and nuance from our language to another, this doesn’t ensure that our message will come across as intended. Color palettes, imagery, tone, and other aspects of our message will need to be adapted to our target locale. For instance, if we’ll expand our business to the Middle East, we’ll want our company website’s images to show us an ideal client that is dressed like the people in our audience, and of the same ethnicity, as to make it easier for them to identify with our message and resound with our brand.
Localization is about the holistic adaptation of our message, covering textual as well as paratextual elements. Localization is rooted in in-depth cross-cultural knowledge.
It’s also worth noting that localization professionals should be aware of any regulatory differences between their clients’ home and target markets. For instance, if we’re in the Middle East, it’d be imprudent to craft ads with models dressed in a manner than contradicts local regulation. A localization professional should communicate this to the client and suggest alternatives.
When adapting websites and digital products, localization professionals often collaborate with developers, in order to adapt elements of the user interface to the target locale’s cultural and technical needs and standards.
Transcreation (or creative translation), on the other hand, is creative writing’s response to translation. Transcreation professionals are multilingual creative writers with in-depth cross-cultural knowledge. Transcreation professionals don’t take care of paratextual elements, but they focus on texts, adapting content, and crafting new material to meet business goals.
Unlike translators, transcreators have the creative writing training necessary to be able to create effective marketing assets and engaging content that’s on-brand. Transcreators take the brand’s vocabulary as a starting point, expanding and enriching it.
When Do We Need Transcreation Services?
Localization and transcreation have a common interest area: having the brand’s offer adapted to the target market’s culture.
Localization focuses on meeting standards and expectations, on making your brand appear local, while transcreation makes it possible for you to build up your brand in this new locale, through content and engaging copy.
The difference between these two services may be clearer after we take a look at a few examples.
For instance, let’s say we want to adapt our company website so it can support our expansion efforts. We need to have it translated to, let’s say, Malay.
We also need to know if there are elements of the website’s interface that might come across as unfamiliar to our new users, making their experience clumsy and difficult. And let’s not forget the relevance of images and colors. Should they be adapted as well?
On the other hand, according to a 2017 We Are Social report, most Southeast Asian internet users access the web through their mobile phones. While having a responsive website is always crucial, this fact invites us to ask what’s the quality of these users’ internet connection. Should we take some extra steps to make sure our website is “offline-first”?
These questions are all about localization.
Let’s say our website also has a blog. A blog is a great way for us to connect with our audiences, and establish our brand as a reputable source of knowledge and value. But, how do we create content that’s relevant to our new audience and meets their particular needs?
We might also want to build a funnel, using our blog to lead our users to a certain place within our website, be it our e-shop or to our Contact page. And let’s not forget that all our on-page content should be in the same tone, that we should keep track of synonyms when it comes to the most important terms for our brand, and that we should have a brand voice that’s relevant and inviting. All of this can be achieved with the help of an expert creative translator.
Different Solutions for Different Needs
Comparing transcreation vs localization can feel a little like comparing apples and oranges. While both disciplines aim to serve the needs of globally expanding businesses, the aspects of their brand that they focus on are very different. Localization is broad and multidisciplinary. Transcreation is hyperfocused, helping businesses achieve goals in their new locale, through words.
Of course, these services aren’t mutually exclusive. Localization is the bare minimum we need to make sure our brand can compete in a new locale. And, if we’re going all-in with our expansion efforts, it’s crucial to rely on a transcreation professional to make sure our blog is an effective marketing asset.