Transcreation – a communication upgrade that’s more than just cosmetic

An increasing number of brands are reaching out to international audiences in order to establish an online presence in vibrant emerging markets. These brands depend heavily on global marketing and they have to be able to engage in an effective way, earning visibility and credibility in each market.

However, localising content for global audiences is more than just a translation job. This is where transcreation comes in.  It is the creative adaptation of marketing, sales and advertising copy in another language.

It involves creating a target text which preserves the same meaning, creates an equivalent appeal in different languages and evokes the same response as the source text.  After all, a good marketing campaign is all about engaging the consumer on an emotional level.

Let’s take LUSH cosmetics as an example of transcreation.


The home page has 47 flags, reaching across continents and cultures.  Each flag leads to a corresponding website, tailored to the cultural expectations of the customer.

Let’s start with the visuals and the layout. Both have been altered to match the particular culture of the country. If we compare the German site with the Japanese one, we can already see a difference.


Whilst the German site is clear and orderly, with a list of products to the side and images in the centre, the Japanese site reflects the busy, cluttered nature of advertising in Japan. Japanese sites will typically cram as much information onto a page as possible. Site visitors can expect a colourful assault on their senses from a multitude of flashing rectangular blocks.

As Easter is approaching, images of Easter bunnies and eggs are flashing at you on the French and English LUSH sites. Being a Muslim country, the Turkish site has no such features as it wouldn’t be culturally appropriate.

LUSH is an example of a well localised site which takes into account the local norms so it looks and feels familiar and user-friendly to the target audience.

As I mentioned earlier, a good marketing campaign is all about emotion. The job of the transcreator is to trigger the desired emotions in any target language. I can state with confidence that LUSH cosmetics achieves that goal, because I’m a regular customer who has responded positively to their advertising in several languages. One example of the brand’s cross-cultural success is the way quirky product names have been translated between languages.

Let’s take the famous mint face mask as an example. The name “Magnaminty” is a combination of the Latin word “Magnus” meaning “Great” and the Mint plant.

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The French website could easily have left the name in the English. However it used a play on words and translated the product as “La Grande mentheuse” which literally means “The big liar” (female liar). However they deliberately mis-spelled the French translation of “liar” (menteuse) to allow them to retain a reference to mint “menthe”. This required a lot of creativity and imagination. Not only did the French retain the meaning of great and minty, it also recreated the same fun and quirkiness.


Another product which I found interesting is the famous lip balm called “None of your beeswax”. “Rien à cirer” was the French translation which is, just like in English, a colloquial expression which means “not interested”. However, the translator still managed to retain the word “cire” which means wax, an ingredient found in lip balms.

In this example, the transcreator managed to find a suitable French translation. This requires a nuanced understanding not only of the target market but also the technicalities of the French language.

Effective branding enables us to speak to the world, and effective transcreation enables us to do it with a subtlety and distinctiveness which encourages our audience to listen attentively to every word. It’s a process that goes far deeper than mere cosmetics, but like a good LUSH product it can put a smile on the face of consumers in any target market.


About soniasoundandvision

Hi and welcome to my blog. I will mainly be writing about my interests and the translation industry. Your comments are welcome :) Enjoy
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6 Responses to Transcreation – a communication upgrade that’s more than just cosmetic

  1. Great post. You’ve summed up the difference between simply reproducing words on a page and actually conveying a message, in sense and spirit, in a target language. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Adele Marinescu says:

    This is a good article. Too many times a translation is not capturing the true essence but the “transcreation” is a better version which I hope is the future alternative to translation by machine

  3. Cathy Hill says:

    Interesting post, can we really “speak to the world” or do cultural barriers always get in the way. I note your point about muslim countries being a particular challenge. Can we truly overcome that?

  4. Emma says:

    This article is really interesting. I particularly like the part about “Rien à cirer”. It doesn’t surprise me that such a friendly company like Lush have made a great effort adapted themselves for each market.

  5. Katharina says:

    Great article! I find it very interesting that the layout of the German and the Japanese website is so different. This is a great example for how much a transcreator has to know about the culture and the advertising business of the country he is transcreating advertisments for.

  6. Cathy – there are cultural barriers to overcome in international marketing, and religious issues need to be handled with particular sensitivity, but I think this article makes a persuasive case for transcreation as a way forward. We’ve seen many good examples of effective marketing campaigns in non-Christian countries, and companies that follow the principles Sonia’s outlined will give themselves a far better chance of success than those that don’t.

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