Beyond localization: Why transcreation is essential for engaging the global audience


from localization to transcreation

from localization to transcreation

In today’s connected digital economy, many companies are born global from day one. The tremendous reach provided by the internet and related digital technologies represents a significant source of opportunities for businesses wishing to tap into new markets and grow globally.

With approximately 3.5 billion internet users worldwide in 2016, and with the global flow of goods and services expected to amount to upwards of $85 trillion by 2025, according to McKinsey, the potential for growth in the digital economy is enormous.

But this increasingly global digital reality, with its unprecedented access to customers across channels, platforms, and geographies, also brings with it a series of challenges for companies and marketers.

Changing consumer habits, behaviors, and expectations are shifting the way companies communicate their brand strategy, market to consumers, and engage with audiences around the world.

Forced to adapt to this new reality, marketers and companies alike are coming to recognize the importance of adopting a global mindset. And when launching global campaigns and building brand awareness worldwide, this means having to balance two imperatives: maintaining brand consistency globally and at the same time engaging with customers locally.

To do this, forward-thinking brands are moving beyond traditional localization and turning instead to transcreation.

One size fits all—or does it?

When developing a global campaign, the common approach is to design a single model that’s harmonized, universally appealing, and capable of scaling to reach a wider audience, both domestically and internationally. This helps to ensure that a consistent brand image, voice, and message are communicated to customers anywhere in the world.

But while this model has its advantages—consistency, coherency, less risks, and reduced costs, to name  a few—the reality is that the world isn’t homogeneous.

Delivering a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t speak directly to the local tastes and cultural differences of consumers can backfire.

In this case, a global mindset is a must. While consistency and universality are important, it’s equally important to address the cultural realities of the target locales. That’s where localization comes in. Localization is the process of adapting a product to the specific linguistic requirements, cultural sensitivities, preferences, values, and expectations of a target country or market. But while it can have a measurable impact on a company’s international business goals, sometimes localization doesn’t go far enough toward engaging the customer.

Moving beyond localization

We’ve all experienced it: a slogan that doesn’t sound quite right, a tagline that falls flat, an ad that just misses the mark. A brand’s identity is made up of various elements—rational and emotional, visual and textual, tangible and intangible—that come together to tell the unique story of your business. The more concrete the elements, the easier they are to communicate; the creative elements, however, can get lost in localization.

Although similar to localization, transcreation takes a creative approach to adaptation. Used primarily in marketing and advertising, it focuses on the concept of the campaign and on the intent of the message in order to provide cultural context and to recreate the nuances of its voice and tone.

So where localization focuses on communicating culturally appropriate messages, transcreation goes a step further:  it looks to creatively adapt the message to faithfully convey it in another language, for another culture, with the goal of maximizing cultural relevance and resonance.

Localization provides value, transcreation creates an experience

Beyond simply speaking to customers in their language, transcreation helps to ensure that you’re reaching them—you’re conveying the intended message and that it resonates with them. If your customers can relate to your message, it’s more likely to elicit an emotional response from them. This, in turn, shifts the needle from using localization to provide customer value to using transcreation to improve customer experience. And this helps to influence customer behavior.

Global marketing presents a challenging balancing act between brand consistency and customer engagement. Transcreation manages this by moving beyond traditional localization practices and adding the creative dimensions necessary to ensure your message resonates with your audience. While the message may differ for different communities, its voice and tone will be consistent, remaining faithful to the brand’s identity.

So, to sum up, if you’re thinking of reaching out to a global audience, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1 – Understand your customers – This goes without saying, but to effectively communicate your brand across the globe, you must understand the cultural values of your customers and respect their cultural needs. This means communicating with them in their own language, and in a way that’s culturally appropriate and relevant.

2 – Adapt your message to the market – As a global marketer, you want to scale their campaigns, but scaling globally at the expense of your local audience is a losing proposition. Maximize cultural relevance by adapting your campaign and core messaging so it resonates with local groups.

3 – Connect and engage – We all know how important it is to speak to customers in their language, but if your customers can’t relate to your message, then it’s a loss. To really connect and engage with them, you need to get personal. And to effectively take your brand from global to local, you need to transcreate.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

About the author

Author: Giovanna Patruno

Giovanna Patruno is a translator, technical communicator, and localization specialist. Passionate about languages, world cultures, and all things digital, she specializes in intercultural and international communication, global content strategy, international customer experience, and digital globalization. She is the Principal Consultant at Contextus, a boutique content strategy and development consultancy that helps technology companies use content to solve business problems, achieve strategic goals, and meet customer needs.

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