Transcreation – when translation needs a dash of added creativity

Transcreation is a combination of the two terms “translation” and “creation”. It refers to those occasions when an exact translation won’t do and a creative approach is needed for the target languages. Right from the start, we put on our creative hats for your marketing translations.

Translation is only part of the picture

With transcreation, the aim is that the meaning of the text is translated with consideration to the cultural context of the target audience, resulting in a translation that provokes the same emotional response to the text in the target-language country. As such, a good transcreation may be very different from the original text. Often, these kind of adaptations are used for marketing or advertising texts.

Translators who create effective marketing transcreations must be highly qualified. They have professional experience in the language and subject area of the target text and have native-speaker mastery of the target language. They also need to have a good sense of stylistic subtleties, a creative approach and a good knowledge of puns, idioms and proverbs.

In addition to all of the above, these language experts are highly skilled in intercultural communications and have an in-depth understanding of the target groups. It requires similar skills to those of advertising specialists or copywriters in communications agencies.

It is these factors that separate a transcreator from a conventional translator. Transcreation is more a marketing exercise than a translation task, because the adapted text always tells a story and sells an idea.

When is transcreation needed?

Transcreation is needed in a wide range of different situations:

  • Plays on words and double meanings must be adapted for the target language.
  • British humour is not very well understood in Germany.
  • German consumers prefer hard facts to the more emotional appeals used for American customers.
  • The order of certain words is important for the meaning in Chinese and nuances of language play a big role. Certain character sets must be avoided in the context of the Chinese Advertisement Law.
  • In French-speaking markets, it is customary that a call to action is phrased in the first person, e.g. “I subscribe”, rather than “Subscribe now”.

Transcreation done well

When done well, a transcreated text doesn’t just match the linguistic and cultural expectations of a target audience, it also elicits an emotional response.

  • The McDonald’s slogan: “I’m loving it” – this can be translated to many languages without issue, but in certain languages there are cultural nuances that need to be considered. In China, they actually use: “我就喜歡” (I just like it)
  • The slogan of the Sat.1 television network: “Powered by emotion” (former slogan) – “Sat.1 zeigt’s allen” (Sat.1 shows them all)
  • The Haribo jingle: What makes the jingle so special is that it rhymes and is also set to a certain rhythm, which needed to be kept in every language. German: “Haribo macht Kinder froh und Erwachsene ebenso.” (Haribo makes children happy, and adults too) English: “Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo!” French: “Haribo, c’est beau la vie, pour les grands et les petits !” (Haribo, life is great, for adults and for kids!)
Three people discussing marketing-effective transcreation. They are smiling and applauding.

A detailed brief is paramount for transcreation

You wouldn’t expect a marketing agency to work without any kind of brief and it’s the same for transcreation. The professionals tasked with transporting your texts into the target languages need to be aware of certain information and ‘guardrails’.

At the start of every project, the following information should be made available:

  • Description of the target audience
  • Brainstorm about style, tone and message
  • Defined objectives (clicks, subscriptions, market recognition, direct sales, etc.)
  • Analysis of the values and emotions conveyed as well as any cultural background
  • Information about the context as well as the type of media used and platform for publication
  • If necessary, special considerations regarding slogans, claims, word plays or images
  • Any important restrictions or notes from a marketing perspective
  • Language guidelines or corporate identity information
  • Information about project timelines

Transcreation is not a linear translation process. Instead, it is a collaborative process between the client and linguist. Close communication between the two is therefore key.

Comparing time and effort needed for transcreation


In summary: Transcreation will cost more than the average translation. The higher price reflects the additional time taken to add value for the customer.

STAR reception with large STAR logo and an employee in motion.

Key benefits at a glance

  • Our experts, who combine all important aspects of transcreation, are on hand with their expertise
  • International STAR network in more than 30 countries with language professionals who live in the target markets
  • Two fewer things to worry about: A one-stop shop for translation and adaptation for effective marketing in your target countries
  • Your slogan/claim/text is just as effective in the target language
  • Break into new markets with little effort
  • One marketing job we can take care of for you
STAR_Technische Uebersetzung


STAR_Marketing Uebersetzung

translation services

STAR_Website & SEO Uebersetzungen

SEO and website localisation

STAR_Uebersetzungen fuer China

for China

STAR_Software & App Lokalisierung

Software and app

STAR_Multimedia Lokalisierungen

Multimedia ­localisation

STAR Icon für E-Learning Lokalisierung.


STAR_Desktop Publishing & Fremdsprachensatz

DTP and layout work

STAR_Weitere Uebersetzungen


Portrait of STAR team member Bernadette M.

Translation or transcreation?
We can help you decide!

Bernadette Müller

Pre-Sales & Marketing Manager
+49 (0) 7031 21 7075