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

This is the case 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 country to country. While all dialects follow the same written standard, the 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 fandom web. In the Indian version, Peter Parker is called Pavitr Prabhakar.

Furthermore, 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 assigned 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 translating languages. The required transcreation – tailored content tailored to a specific 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 feeling.

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

Spanish translation errors

Transcreation is preferred by marketers as simple English-to-Spanish translation 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, such as with “rope” and “ropa.” The Spanish version looks 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 mistakenly defaults on the word “jerseis” on his Spanish website, which customers in Spain know … but not those in Mexico. Mexicans do not use this term.

Use of Spanish language

Neutral Spanish

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

While practical in certain 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 present confusion. Those in America use ustedes as the only second-person plural form (for both formal and informal speech).

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


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

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

North American “sweaters” become “jumpers” to properly reflect the culture and indigenous use of 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 with the correct kind of currency.

For example, El Salvador has just announced that it intends to make Bitcoin a legal tender. Therefore, brand marketing across the country can benefit from customizing the website options to reflect this current development.


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

Using an ordering app along with digital billboards, the burger chain encouraged those stuck in traffic to order food. Delivery people on motorcycles woven through an otherwise immobile wave of cars to make the food fall off.

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


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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 is improved at marketing stages 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 customers have regarding Spanish translation. Adjust all transcreation processes with custom style guides.

These style guides serve as a common ground so that our team can properly train customers in Spanish transcreation and ensure that marketing messages are optimized for specific Spanish audiences.


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When should transcreation be used?

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

As we see with North America and the United Kingdom, common language does not mean common 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 models of shoes.

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

So when Puma made a shoe with 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 apologize to consumers.

Transcreation Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages of transcreation largely outweigh the disadvantages. Transcreation ensures that marketing content is tailored 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 enables a brand and its transcreation service to remain effective and consistent.

Steps to transcreation

First, you need to analyze a particular interest market. Business growth should not be discouraged by another language, place 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 that helps align a brand’s goals and culture with trends, languages, and culture in a new target market.

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

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


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Gaps in understanding culture and language lead to failure at best 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, these are all opportunities to better connect with customers in all markets.

Spanish transcreation accounts for customer 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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