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Lifting the lid on all things marketing, language, copy & transcreation.

great transcreation

Excellent Transcreation: A User's Guide

What is transcreation?

What is transcreation…? As a transcreation agency, this is a question we here at franklyfluent hear an awful lot. Which might make us cry a little bit in private, but doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We know that the world of transcreation is a murky one, ill-defined and poorly understood. To make matters worse, there’s a whole heap of different definitions and bamboozling terminology kicking around, doing more to confuse than clarify: transcreation, localisation, marketing translation, creative translation, adaptation …

So we decided to answer the question once and for all, with this, our handy-dandy rooting-tooting user’s guide to the reassuringly straightforward world of transcreation …


So what is transcreation?

Transcreation, or creative translation, is crucial for translation of stuff like advertising, branding materials, b2b marketing content or generally speaking any sort of marketing communications.

Is it any different to any other kind of translation? Well, conventionally translation tries to stick pretty close to the original source. Which makes sense if you’re working with a text where precision is the priority, like a legal document or industry white paper.

But when it comes to advertising and marketing, the stakes are a little different. Here, what’s key is prompting the audience into action. Which means that when you translate it’s crucial you have room to manoeuvre, to ensure that, yes, you are preserving the original meaning, but more than that, you’re conveying the tone and emotion of the words, and adapting where necessary to ensure they appeal to your new audience.

What is creative translation?


What does great creative translation look like?

Let’s say you’re a soft drinks brand and this is the headline for a press ad introducing your newest fizzy drink …

Lovely Bubbly

… you need a translation to do more than find the words for ‘lovely’ and ‘bubbly’ in a new language. Transcreation unlocks the slang, the rhyme, the spirit packed into these two little words, and finds the best possible equivalent in the target language, whether that’s ‘Herrlich perlig’ in German or ‘fa(bulle)ux’ in French.

Creative translation in action


So… how do I do excellent transcreation work for my brand?

Depending on the scale and complexity of your project, you might want to rope in a transcreation agency, but here are a few simple tips to help you navigate the brave new world of transcreation if you decide to go it alone …

1. Get briefing

Get all of the important info on the project into a written brief. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the translation team – what would you want to know? Give them everything from who the target audience is to what the finished visuals are going to look like. Make it clear and make yourself available to answer questions.

2. Give it some love

And by ‘love’ we of course mean ‘talent, time and money’.

Sad news: there’s no magic formula to finding the best people, just lots of searching! So roll up your sleeves, take this shovel and start digging.

franklyfluent transcreation

At franklyfluent, we always work with both a copywriter and an editor, who acts a bit like a creative director, overseeing the work to make sure it’s up to snuff and on brief.

But that crack transcreation team you’ve just unearthed can only truly shine if paid decently and given enough time to do the work well. Where possible try to factor in costs and time for translation early on in the project, so you and your writers don’t find yourselves squeezed when it comes time to deliver.

3. Get involved

When working with languages you don’t speak, it’s easy to assume you have no role to play in reviewing the work. Wrong! Encourage your team to explain their translation choices whenever they’ve had to make a tough call, and be ready to talk it through with them. Of course you need to trust your talent and defer to their judgement where sensible, but your knowledge – about the brand, the client, the category – shouldn’t go to waste. 

Now go forth, and transcreate!

(And give me back that shovel I borrowed it from a friend.)

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