Transcreation: A Key Strategy To Connect Brands With New Markets

It was the end of 2016, I had just launched Yucalab a year prior and already had my first clients. While living in Brooklyn, I wasn’t making enough to pay rent and my savings were starting to run out. I was focused on working with more content and social media, and just starting to offer services related to my newly acquired YouTube certification.

One of my best friends, who worked in one of the largest advertising agencies, was going on vacation and suggested that I cover her position while she was away. Of course! The experience of working at Grey Advertising and earning some extra money was the best thing that could happen to me at that time … little did I know the door that was opening for me with this opportunity!

My friend was a Spanish translator and proofreader at Wing, the part of the agency that works with the US Hispanic Market. At first, since it was a temporary job, I didn’t question the work much; I’m an audiovisual producer, not a translator, I said to myself. I will work on this while I get more clients, I continued to tell myself while living with eternal impostor syndrome.

To make a long story short, after my friend’s vacation I continued working with the agency on brands like Advil, CoverGirl, Nido, La Lechera, Walgreens and many others, and without realizing it I entered this world of creative translation, which is not the same as standard translation (no, I’m not an interpreter and I don’t work with legal documents). 

Over the years, I got acquainted with the term “transcreation”, commonly used in Europe for creative translation services and which has become one of Yucalab’s signature services. 

Now you’re probably wondering … What is transcreation?

To talk about transcreation, let’s start by defining translation, a term that derives from the Latin word translation, which comes from trans, “across” + ferre, “to carry” or “to bring”. Wikipedia defines it as an activity that consists of understanding the meaning of a text in one language, in order to produce a text with equivalent meaning in another language.

While translation is usually literal, transcreation or creative translation goes further, taking into account aspects such as the voice of the brand, the target, the geographical location, and the cultural context. This is when creative copywriting and content creation meets linguistic and cultural experience.

Transcreation service is crucial when working with advertising, marketing, and content when brands want to break barriers and connect with a new global market.

At Yucalab, we work closely with companies, brands, and advertising agencies, helping them to adapt their voice, campaigns and content when reaching the Hispanic market in the United States, Latin America and Spain. Our experience in media production has also played an important role in our work adapting scripts for TV and radio, as well as creating video titles and subtitles.

But how hard is it to adapt content to Spanish?

This is when I use one of my favorite examples! Let’s say you sell popcorn and you want to reach the Hispanic Market. Well, this can be a bit of a challenge … What name are you going to use to sell the most important addition to a movie?

As simple as it sounds in English, there are 17 words to define popcorn in LATAM and it varies according to your target country. Imagine having to choose between: palomitas, rosetas, pochoclos, cabritas, pororó, cotufas, crispetas, cocalecas, canchitas, canguil, gallitos, rositas de maíz or pipoca. And what if you want to sell to the US Hispanic Market where there are so many Latinx people from different countries? Complicated, right? 

Why hire an agency if we have Google Translate and also there’s a colleague in my company who speaks Spanish?

There’s no doubt that Google has saved our lives! Especially when traveling or communicating with a new client by email in another language. Would you believe me if I told you that I have met couples who don’t speak the same language and have relied on Google to communicate? Some of them even got married!

Now let’s put on the salesman’s suit, do you think it’s possible to sell and persuade a customer using textual words that may even be wrong? When doing transcreation, it’s important to have the freedom and space to be creative and go beyond words. Remember, context is the most important thing here as well as connecting with the potential client, not only through words, but also through the tone and emotions behind them. This is the way to generate engagement and get them to take action.

And don’t get me started on the translation mistakes… I see them everywhere. For example, the label on this Mamajuana (a rum-spiced drink from my country, the Dominican Republic). What word do you say when making a toast? Those of us who speak Spanish celebrate by raising our glasses and saying: Salud! 

Clearly, those who manage this brand, to save money, resorted to a machine translation tool like Google. Wanting to reach the English-speaking market, this brand is toasting in a slightly different way. Imagine bringing some Mamajuana to celebrate with a group of friends and while everyone is raising their shots to toast, shouting Cheers! there’s suddenly an awkward silence while you, very excited, stand out shouting: Health! (the literal translation of Salud).

This is an example of common mistakes that can arise when brands try to reach a larger international market. Even worse, many brands have approached us and started using our services in the middle of a crisis, when their own clients had turned their badly translated copy into memes, making fun of the brand’s language across all social networks.

Well Alex, I don’t use Google Translate, but my partner Ana grew up with her abuelita and she speaks Spanish. Although she is the head of purchasing in the company, we can send our campaigns and marketing materials to her for translation. This is another common mistake that companies make! Without detracting from Ana, remember that she doesn’t have professional language experience and that maybe her grandmother was from a different country than the one your company is trying to reach.

To be honest, there is a constant complaint among bilingual professionals who are hired by their company in a specific role and feel taken advantage of when they receive unpaid translation assignments from the company.

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