5 Inspiring Transcreation Examples

How do brands large and small create advertising and marketing campaigns that work just as well in Japan as they do in the UK? When the audiences you’re addressing vary so widely, “one size fits all” marketing just won’t do. Transcreation is the process of recreating and adapting advertising and marketing messages to appeal to audiences around the world, taking into account linguistic and cultural differences.

Rather than duplicating the original content in another language, transcreation focuses on recreating the same emotional appeals and impact. In the process, content and imagery may be completely redone, from the ground up.

For more, see “What is Transcreation?” 

Curious about how it all works in the wild? Here are five transcreation examples to study and learn from:

How Red Bull stands out in Chinese shops

The success of Red Bull energy drinks is a testament to the power of marketing and advertising.  Think about it- it tastes like watered-down cough syrup. It has less caffeine than plain coffee. Why do people buy it?

Well, Red Bull’s advertising isn’t selling foul-tasting, caffeinated sugar water. It’s selling an image. Want to be the type of person that does extraordinary things? Want to be larger than life?  Buy a Red Bull- it gives you wings!

When it came time to expand into China, Red Bull made several adjustments to both the product and its packaging to ensure that the appeal of its original marketing didn’t get lost in translation.

For example, in China, Red Bull is not carbonated. And they offer a version of the beverage in red, gold and black can,  a colour scheme that signals, luck, wealth and good fortune to Chinese consumers.

The iPod Shuffle-when “Small Talk” isn’t small

Remember the iPod shuffle? Apple initially advertised the mp3 player using the slogan “Small Talk.” Simple enough, right?

As Nataly Kelly points out in “Found in Translation,” that little slogan proved quite difficult to translate. The English-version is only two words long. But “small talk” is an idiomatic phrase. Directly translated, it’s meaningless in most other languages. Most languages have an equivalent word or phrase that means “small talk,” of course – but it might not contain the word for “small”, so the play on words is lost.

How did they handle it?  By rewriting the slogan from scratch for each language (and some regional variants.)

Here’s how it was transcreated for four different target markets:

  • Latin American Spanish: Mira quién habla, or “Look who’s talking.” 
  • European Spanish: Ya sabe hablar, “already knows how to talk”, something a proud parent might say.
  • French: donnez-liu de la voix, or “Let him speak.”
  • Canadian French (Québécois): Petit parleur, grand faiseur, or “Says little, does much.”

All of these slogans are different.  Yet, they all communicate the same idea: amazement at how much the tiny device is capable of.

Apple: The Song Vs The Old Record

These two Apple commercials, one from the US and one from China, are an excellent example of transcreation in action. In the US version, a teenage girl uses her iPod to make the ultimate Christmas present for her grandmother. She adds her own vocals and guitar to a recording of her grandmother singing a song to her grandfather while he was deployed overseas.

In the Chinese version, it’s not Christmas. A different teenage girl is going to visit her grandmother, this time for the Chinese New Year. She still adds her own vocals to an old record of her grandmother singing. All the details are different, but the overarching theme is the same. More importantly, the ad is a tearjerker in both languages.  I’m not crying; you’re crying!

How do you say “Just do it” in Chinese?

Actually, you don’t.

Whether you’re an athlete or not,  Nike’s English- language slogan is iconic and instantly recognisable: “Just do it.”

That said, it doesn’t necessarily translate well. Since the slogan is so well-known, Nike has chosen to leave it in English on most of their global advertising. However, they often include supplemental slogans that convey the same idea in culturally relevant ways.

For example, Brandchannel points out this example from 2011, in which 用运动 , which roughly translates to “make sport” or “have sport”, is used throughout.  Brandchannel describes the ad as “all about “using sport” in China, or, one might say, “Just doing it with Chinese characteristics.”

Or, take a look at this more recent example, which leaves the English slogan intact but illustrates the underlying concept for the Chinese market, as scores of Chinese athletes of all ages and abilities take to the streets in droves:

Intel- Sponsors of tomorrow . . . Or whenever.

Intel’s slogan, “Sponsors of tomorrow,” is meant to highlight the company’s role in pushing technology forward. Unfortunately, when translated directly into Brazilian Portuguese, the slogan had some definite slacker overtones.

As a solution, Intel decided to use “Apaixonados pelo futuro,”  which translates to “in love with the future.”

Want to make sure your advertising doesn’t get lost in translation? We can help! Our team of skilled translators and multilingual copywriters is ready to help you create marketing campaigns and advertisements that work just as well around the globe as they do on your home turf.

For more information, take a look at our transcreation and marketing translation services and contact us today!

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