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Blind Transcreation: When Copywriting Meets Creative Translation

Blind Transcreation: When Copywriting Meets Creative Translation

So, exactly what is blind transcreation? It’s a translation technique with has a specific definition and methodology, but to fully grasp the concept, let’s take a step back and address regular transcreation as the starting point.

Creative translators working with advertising copy, also known as “transcreators”, are a breed of translator that produce creative copy in the target language, mostly from scratch, using a source-language text as a reference for intent, tone, and style. In other words, instead of transferring the source text word-for-word into another language, they only take it as a framework to ensure they don’t steer away from its core message, structure, and intended impact.

Blind transcreation, as we’ll see later, is an extreme form of transcreation that is closer to copywriting than to translation.

Regular Transcreation vs Translation vs Copywriting

We could think of (regular) transcreation and copywriting as two ends of a spectrum. Unlike copywriters, who base their work on an exhaustive brief, transcreation involves working with a contextual and thematic constraint: the source text.

At the same time, transcreators work differently from general translators in that transcreation isn’t a word-for-word rendering of the source text. Rather, it’s a recreation of it taking into account the target audience.

A common example of transcreation is movie titles. These usually change from one country to another (even if they share the language!) as part of marketing ploys or to make them even more impactful.

“13 going on 30” became “Suddenly 30” in Australia

So What Is Blind Transcreation?

In the middle of the transcreation-copywriting spectrum, we find blind transcreation: the creative reinterpretation of the message in the target language to produce a text different from its source (but just as powerful) without seeing the source text.

Put simply, then, blind transcreation is transcreation with no source text—a mid-point between regular transcreation and copywriting.

GoodBye, Source Text! By Giulia Tarditi

How can using blind transcreation do more than just create accessible, easy to understand, and optimised content in various languages? Well, believe it or not, it can greatly increase customer conversion rates.

Monese, a service that transfers various currencies on the fly, had a serious issue with their mobile app. The company had the translations for its buttons and labels, but the wording was still confusing customers in various regions. This is far from ideal, to say the least.

The solution came in quite an interesting format: an idea by Giulia Tarditi, Monese’s Localisation Manager at the time. She called it “Goodbye, Source Text! Discover a Source-Free Translation Scenario That Helps Increase Your Conversion Rates,” and this was the origin of what is now known in the industry as blind transcreation.

Believe it or not, her intervention converted more customers and reduced customer service calls. 

How did Giulia do it? What were the steps she took?

The idea of omitting the source text during the app localisation process was sparked by her curiosity regarding customer confusion. Her team originally tried to hire target-language copywriters instead of translators, hoping that’d do the trick, but those efforts didn’t pay off in terms of conversions either.

Looking into it, she realised that just describing the features that translators had to transfer into other languages, separate from the original wording, was faster, easier, and more efficient.

Giulia reached out to her translators, instructed them accordingly, and they produced amazing results for Monese. She figured out how to use blind transcreation to solve an immense problem.

Implementing Blind Transcreation

So, as proven by Monese, blind transcreation works really well for app localisation. That’s great, but what happens if we implement the same concept in more commonly explored sectors of the transcreation industry?

Imagine the case of advertising and branding collateral. (Yes, app localisation does involve a great deal of transcreation in terms of content but also concerns itself with other aspects, such as localising UI and UX components, app store optimisation, localising images, testing, etc.).

Well, we’ve tried implementing blind transcreation with some of our clients. After much consideration and deep looks into each brand and business, the results have been fantastic. Of course, to be able to try this approach, each client has to provide us first with a style guide, brand guide, and glossaries.

The more thorough the documentation they provide, the better. The recommended information includes a client’s chosen approach, format, audience, and additional details to refine the content.

Choosing Your Approach

First and foremost, it’s important for both parties to be on the same page regarding format and style. Specifically, what presentation does the client prefer? Next comes the method of distribution, permitting the final step of defining intention. In short, clients have to provide info on the following points for the best blind transcreation results:

  • Chosen presentation:
    • Newsletter
    • Landing page
    • Social media posts
    • Brochures
  • Preferred method of distribution (how and when the piece will be shared)
  • Details regarding intention (how it will be used)

Formatting Your Content

With the format and presentation decided, the client must guide the team regarding word count and other limitations. Additionally, when possible, specific requests regarding headlines, paragraphs and existing phrases in the target language can help. So, providing the following info is also helpful:

  • Word Count
  • Character limits
  • Structure
  • Headlines
  • Paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Existing taglines or phrases from previous translation or transcreation work

See below the formatting specifications from a sample brief put together by our client Jimdo. The third column is where the transcreator will enter their blind transcreation output (in this case, in English):

Blind transcreation brief sample
Blind transcreation sample brief

Pinpointing Your Audience

Who is the client trying to reach? While all guidance is important, this is likely the most essential question to answer. In many cases, it’s the primary determining factor for optimizing translation engagement. For optimal results with a specific audience, clients should provide the following:

  • Target market
  • Demographics of the target locale
  • Data and statistics from surveys or market research

Refining Your Content

Last, but not least, on this list, is to properly provide essential information for a final product that’s more detailed and higher in quality. One thing is to communicate a message, another is to make the content engaging and attractive to a given audience. Clients should seek to provide the following:

  • Details on key concepts or message
  • Calls to action
  • Desired outcome of the target text
  • Inspiration and examples to imitate
  • Files or links to relevant old projects

Blind Transcreation vs Copywriting

Earlier in this post, we compared regular transcreation vs copywriting. Let’s now look at the difference between blind transcreation and copywriting.

Among the main differences, we can mention that copywriters enjoy significantly more leeway to play around with the client’s proposition. They usually get to decide—after thorough research—on things like structure, format, key ideas, content distribution, etc.

In blind transcreation, however, the client’s marketing department (which includes copywriters) will draft up a very detailed “road map” or blueprint for the linguist. Think of it as drawing and colouring: while a copywriter would be given a blank page and a few sharpies to let their imagination run wild, a linguist in charge of blind transcreation will be asked to simply colour within the lines of something that someone else has already sketched for them.

As a result, if a piece of marketing collateral undergoes blind transcreation into several languages, the transcreated end products will share a common “core” across all target languages. Something like having the same mandala design printed off several times with each copy being coloured and decorated differently.

Blind Transcreation vs Back-Translation

Back-translation involves having a translator “reverse” a text another translator has delivered by translating it back into its original source language. While costly, this procedure makes it possible to compare the original source text and the back-translated text in search of any linguistic, conceptual, or technical errors that may have been introduced during the translation process.

Because the back-translator has no access to the original source text used by the first translator, they are ‘blind’ to the original (this ensures complete objectivity while carrying out the reverse translation). But that’s about how much back-translation and blind transcreation have in common.

Questions?

We hope this article has helped you clear your questions! Otherwise, please do let us know in the comments. Happy translating!

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