Transcreation Examples: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Dog in disguise as metaphoric bad transcreation example

Written by Lucy Williams

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

Transcreation is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. But if you sell in more than one language it’s a powerful tool. It can boost your sales. It’s more than just translation. It’s more than just copywriting.

As Gwen explained in What Is Transcreation?, transcreation is a combination of translating and creating content, to target a specific country or culture. It uses translation and copywriting. A more creative process than marketing translation, although you might use both in the same project. Most importantly, it helps you sell. Transcreators produce copy that is specially designed for your brand and target customer.

We live in a globalised world. A quick look around you will throw up lots of transcreation examples. You’ll see high-quality and low-quality transcreation. Let’s have a look at some real-world examples of transcreation. We’ll look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

Bad transcreation examples

Let’s get the worst over with. What makes a bad transcreation? Many low-quality transcreation examples are slogans. It might seem easy to localise a slogan. It’s only a few words after all. Right? Wrong. A good slogan needs to be quickly understood by your target reader. It needs to be memorable.

How you do that? Often by using rhyme. Maybe a play on words. Lots of slogans use humour to grab attention. These things don’t necessarily work in another language or culture.

Fancy a laugh? Check out these bad #transcreation examples? Click To Tweet

Pepsi got it badly wrong when their slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” was rendered in Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Kentucky Fried Chicken gave us an example of how a slogan went wrong in Mandarin. It’s also an example of why literal translation doesn’t necessarily work in other cultures and languages. KFC’s famous “Finger lickin’ good” slogan became “Eat your fingers off”. Obviously, it didn’t have quite the same ring!

Brand blunders

These blunders can also happen with the name of the brand. It’s another reason why you need a transcreator. Someone who knows the culture of your target market.

For instance, the famous Pedo brand of Turkish nappies works less well in Spain, where it means flatulence. Phonetics are important too. Coca-Cola can sound like “bite the wax tadpole” when spoken out loud in Chinese.

A poor-quality transcreation can hurt your brand reputation. And cost you money

Mitsubishi had to rebrand its newly launched Pajero. Named for the Pampas Cat of Argentina (Leopardus pajeros), it was sexual slang in Spanish. The car was eventually launched on the Spanish market as the Montero. And the company had to take the hit on costs.

Ugly transcreation examples

As you can see, brand blunders can do great damage to your brand and sales. But there’s bad transcreation and then there’s the downright ugly. Would you buy a sports drink called Pocari Sweat? Or aluminium foil emblazoned with Alu-Fanny? Perhaps you’d think twice about munching on breakfast cereal called Crapsy Fruit.

Good transcreation examples

We’ve had a good laugh at some bad transcreation examples. What about the good? What makes a good transcreation? It isn’t just about translating slogans.

What makes a good #transcreation #xl8 Click To Tweet

As Gwen explained in What Is Transcreation, transcreation is more than just changing the words. A transcreator can advise about visuals. Coca-Cola transcreates a lot of its content. Not just slogans. The brand has dedicated websites for each of its country-specific markets.

Each of these websites is tailored to that market. The layout, visuals and the content are different for each country. Coca-Cola did more than translate its websites, it transcreated them. The text, tone, visuals and marketing materials are all designed to tap into emotions in the target market.

 Red Bull energy drink is a good example of looking at more than just the words. Transcreating the brand involved changing the colours for the Chinese market. The Chinese version of the drink comes in gold cans with red bulls and black writing. Red and gold are considered lucky or prestigious colours in Chinese culture. The bulls are also more stylised for the Chinese market.

Another successful transcreation example is from Intel. The computer-chip manufacturer changed its successful slogan “Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow” for the Brazilian market. Why? Because research showed that in Portuguese, “Sponsors of Tomorrow” implied Intel would not deliver on its promises immediately. In Brazil, the slogan became “Intel: In Love with the Future”. A good transcreator will use their knowledge of your target market. They know what works and what will fall flat.

What’s the take home message from these transcreation examples?

The bad transcreation examples are funny. They make us laugh. But they don’t make us want to buy. To sell, you need to connect with your customer. You need to know what moves them. What motivates them to make that purchase. A transcreator uses their language skills and copywriting abilities to ensure your message is effective. They use their understanding of marketing to offer advice on all the content and visuals as well as text.  

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