Transcreation Examples: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Lucy Williams

Transcreation may come across as a bit of a buzz word. 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 the name suggests, it’s a kind of creative translation.

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. 

DISCLOSURE: We sometimes review or link to products and services we think you might find helpful. Wherever possible we use referral links. This means if you click one of the links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission or other compensation.

Transcreation is more creative than marketing translation

Transcreation is 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.

Transcreation examples

We live in a globalised world full of cultural differences. A quick look around you will throw up lots of examples of transcreation. 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” in Mandarin. 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 references for your target market.

For instance, the famous Pedo brand of Turkish nappies works less well in Spain, where pedo means flatulence. 

Phonetics are important too. Coca-Cola can sound like “bite the wax tadpole” when spoken out loud in Chinese. So, that would clearly have been a disaster for the Chinese market.

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

Mitsubishi had to rebrand its marketing campaign for the 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 good transcreation? What makes a good advertising 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 to assist in localisation, which means tailoring your content to the new market. Coca-Cola transcreates a lot of its content. Not just slogans. The brand has different websites for each of the different countries it operates in.

Transcreators can help you localise your content

Each of these websites is tailored to the corresponding 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.

An example of colour localization

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.

Slogan transcreation

Another successful advertising transcreation example is from Intel. The computer-chip manufacturer changed its 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. Transcreation services can make or break your brand!  

Get our newsletter for translators!

Keep up to date with our blogs about translation and freelancing. We have more articles about transcreation and marketing translation and lots more besides! Sign up for our newsletter in the sidebar. Or subscribe to our YouTube channel for videos about translation and freelancing!

Written by Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a subtitler and a Spanish-English translator for fashion, tourism and luxury goods/services. She holds the CIOL Diploma in Translation and is a native English copywriter specialising in SEO-optimised long-form content. Connect with Lucy on LinkedIn.

You may also like …

Which is the Best CAT Tool 2024?

Which is the Best CAT Tool 2024?

A freelance translator’s take on the best paid CAT tool and the best free CAT tool in 2024. Read before you buy your translation software!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *