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How Spanish Transcreation Drives Marketing Success in Global Markets

Translation may not satisfy customer needs in various markets. Learn what transcreation is and how it supports marketing to Spanish speakers.

How Spanish Transcreation Drives Marketing Success in Global Markets

If you want to target additional customers in another region or country, you may need to translate marketing messages to another language.

Such is the case of many brands that want to make an impression on Spanish-speaking customers in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and throughout the world.

Spanish translation is an incredible marketing tool, it’s true. And yet, transcreation is even better.

What’s the difference? In this post, you’ll learn what transcreation is, what the transcreation process looks like, and how to use it to localize your marketing content.

Spanish Translation vs. Transcreation

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. It’s the official language of over 20 countries and is spoken in Europe and throughout Latin America.

Even in parts of  North America, Spanish is spoken by a significant portion of the population. America is home to 43.2 million native Spanish speakers — more than in all of Spain!

However, as with English, the Spanish language in each region varies depending on region and culture.

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For optimal translation, it’s important to understand regional subtleties. Spanish is spoken differently from region to region and country to country. While all dialects follow the same written standard, spoken forms of Spanish differ. Therefore, successful Spanish translation takes this into account.

The difference in how Spanish is spoken and interpreted goes beyond those who speak Spanish in Europe versus those in Latin America.

Spanish is divergent among Latin American countries too, especially when it comes to pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Transcreation

So, if Spanish translation is so confusing, what’s a better solution? It’s transcreation.

Transcreation is similar to translation. However, transcreation accounts for culture, tone, and intent.

Consider how the blockbuster movie Spider-Man caught so many Indian fans in its web of fandom. In the Indian version, Peter Parker is named Pavitr Prabhakar.

Moreover, Pavitr doesn’t protect the streets of New York; he doesn’t even live there. Similarly, he didn’t get his powers from a radioactive spider. His powers were granted by an ancient yogi.

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Why all the edits? The modifications are part of making Spider-Man popular in India. The process required much more than translating language. It required transcreation – tailoring content to custom fit a given target market.

As we explained in a recent Spanish PPC post, English-to-Spanish translation gets tricky.

For one, there may be no Spanish alternative for a particular English word or sentiment.

Furthermore, many words in Spanish include significantly more letters than their English counterparts.

Spanish Translation Errors

Transcreation is preferred by marketers since simple English-to-Spanish translation leads to errors. For example, some words are similar in both languages; the word, ”balance” looks similar and has similar meaning in both languages.

However, this is not the case with other words, such as with “rope” and “ropa.” The Spanish version looks very similar; the only difference being the last letter.

Yet, ropa means “clothes” in Spanish. So, one could understand how that could lead to many English-to-Spanish translation errors.

Furthermore, Spanish speakers in Spain and Mexico may use different words to denote the same product. Below, Ralph Lauren erroneously defaults to using the word “jerseis” on its Spanish website, which would be familiar to shoppers in Spain… but not those in Mexico. Mexicans do not use that term.

Depending on location, different words are used to denote the same product.

Use of Spanish Language

Neutral Spanish

As mentioned, Spanish is often found written in standard or “neutral” form, yet differences in meaning and dialect flourish throughout Latin American countries.

Actually, while convenient in particular situations, “neutral” Spanish can lead to mistakes, as translator Fabricio Díaz Serna explains via LinkedIn.

Spanish translation advice.

Formal vs. Informal

People in North America and beyond get confused as to when to use formal or informal Spanish.

Tu vs usted analysis.

Second-person pronouns present confusion. Those in the Americas use ustedes as the only second-person plural pronoun (for both formal and informal speech).

However, most of Spain uses the informal, vosotros (ustedes is only used formally). For second-person singular, some Latin Americans use tu, vos, or both.

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Localization

Localization is a huge part of transcreation. It allows a brand’s messages to properly resonate with local consumers. It relays that the brand truly understands a given locale’s culture, trends, buyer motivations, currency, etc.

Consider how H&M adjusts its pages for optimal relevance to North American and UK shoppers.

Transcreation example on a website.

North America’s “sweaters” becomes “jumpers” to properly reflect the culture and native use of language in the UK.

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Currency

A myriad of currencies are used throughout Latin America. Transcreation ensures marketing messages are aligned with local customers. Additionally, it aligns ecommerce customers with the correct form of currency.

For example, El Salvador has just announced its intentions on making Bitcoin legal tender. Therefore, brands marketing throughout the country may benefit from aligning website options to reflect this current development.

Culture

Understanding culture is a huge component of transcreation. Burger King made an incredible impression throughout Mexico City with its “traffic jam Whopper” campaign. Traffic is utterly out of control in Mexico City, so BK used this cultural fact to its advantage.

Using an ordering app in conjunction with digital billboards, the burger chain urged those stuck in traffic to order food. Delivery people on motorbikes weaved throughout an otherwise unmoving wave of cars to make the food dropoff.

The campaign boosted sales by over 60% in its first week and led to a 44-fold surge in BK app downloads.

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Transcreation Process

Transcreation has many uses in marketing. It improves:

Since transcreation is different for every client, a style guide is necessary. Additionally, the style guide improves upon stages of marketing to include content for acquisition and retention.

Style Guide

Should a marketing message use the Spanish word, “casa” or “vivienda?” Should a particular page be formal or informal?

These are common questions that clients have regarding Spanish translation. Align all transcreation processes with customized style guides.

Spanish style guide.

These style guides serve as common ground so our team may properly educate clients in Spanish transcreation and ensure marketing messages are optimized for particular Spanish audiences.

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When Should Transcreation Be Used?

Ideally, transcreation should be used whenever a brand targets a market of a different language, culture, or location.

As we see with North America and the United Kingdom, shared language does not mean shared culture or references to products and services.

In some cases, tried and true endeavors can fall short.

For example, Puma popularly changes the colors of its models of shoes.

In the case of the United Arab Emirates, Puma made a big mistake using the UAE’s colors on a shoe. The UAE has a cultural history that opposes things that touch the floor.

So, when Puma made a shoe using the colors of the UAE national flag, it did not go as planned.

The brand was forced to remove the shoe from its stores and issue an apology to consumers.

 

Transcreation Pros and Cons

The benefits of transcreation largely outweigh the disadvantages. Transcreation ensures marketing content is customized to make a maximum impact on a target market.

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It can prevent miscommunication or poor translation. Even better, it eliminates the potential for embarrassing mistakes that cost money and reputation.

However, the transcreation process takes longer since it’s more comprehensive. Brands need to allocate a larger budget for these campaigns.

Such campaigns may take longer, yet the implementation of style guides allows a brand and its transcreation service to remain efficient and consistent.

Steps to Transcreation

First, analyze a particular market of interest. Business growth should not be deterred by another language, location, or culture. Once a market is validated, it’s time to consider a transcreation service provider.

Next, work with your chosen provider to develop a style guide, which helps align a brand’s goals and culture with the trends, language, and culture of a new target market.

Then, using the style guide as a template, translate existing content or develop new website pages, PPC ads, social media posts, etc.

Lastly, finalize marketing messages, ensuring they’re on-brand as well as optimized for the intended audience. Assess the outcomes to further optimize content and customer interactions.

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Conclusion

Gaps in understanding culture and language lead to errors at best and loss of financial opportunity and reputation at worst.

But language, location, and culture should not deter brands looking to expand. With a transcreation strategy in place, these are all opportunities to better connect with customers in every market.

Spanish transcreation accounts for customer culture, tone, and intent. A custom style guide serves as the cornerstone to any fruitful transcreation process.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, July 2021

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Zeph Snapp

Zeph Snapp is a family man and business owner, with expertise in English-to-Spanish SEO and content marketing. He's a go-to ... [Read full bio]

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