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How Spanish transcreation drives marketing success in global markets

How Spanish transcreation drives marketing success in global markets

If you want to target multiple customers in a different region or country, you may need to translate marketing messages into another language.

This is how it is with many brands that want to impress Spanish-speaking customers in Spain, Mexico, Brazil and around the world.

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

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

Spanish Translation vs. Transcreation

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. It is 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!

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


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For optimal translation, it is important to understand regional features. Spanish is spoken differently from region to region and from country to country. While all dialects follow the same written standard, spoken forms of Spanish are different. 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 also divergent among Latin American countries, especially when it comes to pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.


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

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

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

Moreover, Pavitr does not protect the streets of New York; he does not even live there. Similarly, he did not get his powers from a radioactive spider. His powers were given by an ancient yogi.


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Why all the edits? The changes are part of making Spider-Man popular in India. The process required much more than translation of languages. The required transcreation – tailor content to suit a given target market.

As we explained in a recent Spanish PPC post, English-to-Spanish translation is becoming difficult.

First, there may be no Spanish alternative to a particular English word or mood.

In addition, many words in Spanish contain significantly more letters than their English counterparts.

Spanish translation errors

Transcreation is preferred by marketers as simple translation from English to Spanish leads to errors. For example, some words are the same in both languages; the word “balance” is similar and has similar meanings in both languages.

However, this is not the case in other words, e.g. With “rope” and “ropa”. The Spanish version is very similar; the only difference is the last letter.

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

In addition, Spanish speakers in Spain and Mexico may use different words to denote the same product. Below, Ralph Lauren is mistaken by default to use the word “jerseys” on his Spanish website, which would be known to shoppers in Spain … but not those in Mexico. Mexicans do not use this term.

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 in the Latin American countries.

While practical in special situations, “neutral” Spanish can actually lead to errors, as translator Fabricio Díaz Serna explains via LinkedIn.

Formula Vs. informal

People in North America and beyond are getting confused about when to use formal or informal Spanish.

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

Most of Spain, however, uses the informal, vosotros (ustedes is used only formally). For singular of other person, some Latin Americans use tu, vos or both.


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

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

North America’s “jerseys” become “jumpers” to accurately reflect the culture and indigenous language of Britain.


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means of payment

A myriad of currencies are used throughout Latin America. Transcreation ensures that marketing messages are tailored to local customers. In addition, it adapts e-commerce customers to the correct form of currency.

For example, El Salvador has just announced its intentions to make Bitcoin a legal tender. Therefore, brands marketing across the country may benefit from customizing site settings to reflect this current trend.


Understanding culture is a huge component in transcreation. Burger King made an incredible impression throughout Mexico City with its “traffic jam Whopper” campaign. The traffic is completely 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 encouraged those stuck in traffic to order food. Delivery people on motorcycles braided through an otherwise unmoving wave of cars to make food fall off.

The campaign increased sales by over 60% in the first week and led to a 44-fold increase in downloads of BK apps.


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Transcreation process

Transcreation has many uses in marketing. It improves:

Since transcreation is different for each client, a style guide is needed. In addition, the style guide enhances marketing phases to include content for acquisition and storage.

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. Adjust all transcreation processes with custom style guides.

These style guides act as common ground so that our team can properly educate clients in Spanish transcreation and ensure that marketing messages are optimized for a specific Spanish audience.


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When should transcreation be used?

Ideally, transcreation should be used when a brand is targeting a market with a different language, culture, or location.

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

In some cases, tried and true efforts may fall short.

For example, Puma is popularly changing the colors of its shoe models.

In the case of the United Arab Emirates, Puma made a big mistake by using the colors of the UAE 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’s 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 advantages of transcreation largely outweigh the disadvantages. Transcreation ensures that marketing content is adapted to have the greatest possible impact on a target market.


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It may 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 as it is more extensive. Brands need to allocate a larger budget to these campaigns.

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

Steps to transcreation

First, analyze a specific 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.

Then work with your chosen provider to develop a style guide that helps adapt a brand’s goals and culture to trends, languages ​​and cultures in a new target market.

By then using the style guide as a template, you can translate existing content or develop new web pages, PPC ads, social media posts, etc.

Finally, complete marketing announcements so that they are on-brand as well as optimized for the intended target audience. Evaluate the results to further optimize content and customer interactions.


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Gaps in the understanding of culture and language lead at best to failure and loss of economic opportunity and reputation at worst.

But language, location and culture should not deter brands that want to expand. With a transcreation strategy in place, there are every opportunity to better connect with customers in all markets.

Spanish transcreation accounts for the customer’s culture, tone and intent. A custom style guide acts as the cornerstone of any fruitful transcreation process.

More resources:

Image credits

All screenshots taken by the author, July 2021

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