Transcreation: When translation meets creation

Definition of “transcreation”

You might not be able to find the term “transcreation” in any official dictionaries because it was formed by advertising and marketing professionals in the modern context when globalization becomes an inevitable trend. “Transcreation” means translating the original text into a new language whilst keeping the same emotions and making sure it is still appropriate in the target language. To do so, the re-creating phase is added to the traditional translation process. There are various terms with similar meaning such as “creative translation”, “marketing translation”, “cultural adaption” or “free-style translation”.

The one who does the transcreation must understand the emotional effect that their clients want to convey and then use the target language to express it fully and appropriately. Unlike mathematics where 1+1=2 in every countries, language is subtle and implicative. Two different translators will never make the same texts with exactly the same words. The translations in each language can also vary, which makes it hard to find the perfect equivalence in all countries. In translation, the translators are not allowed to make significant changes to the original text, meanwhile they can do so in transcreation.

If translation is solely a linguistic process, transcreation is the combination of both language and marketing where creativeness, imagination and dialect come together to form a perfectly catchy yet relevant line. The aim of a “transcreated” line is to attract consumers and to mark an unforgettable imprint in people’s mind.

Some of the worst transcreation failures

Business Insider has pointed out some of the worst transcreation failures in history which are obviously unintentional but remarkable.


Original: “Finger-licking good”

Translation: “We’ll eat your fingers off” in Chinese


Original: “Come alive with Pepsi”

Translation: “Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead”


Original: “Schweppes Tonic Water”

Translation: “Schweppes Toilet Water” in Italian


Original: “Drivers wanted”

Translation: “Chauffeurs wanted” in Spanish

Parker Pens

Original: “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”

Translation: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant” in Mexican.


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