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Building Transcreation into Your Behavior Change Campaigns


As more brands embrace our diverse society in their communications, transcreation and translation are both approaches to adapting content from one language to another but often used in different contexts.

For example, translation is about literal words and language. It involves converting text or speech from one language to another while ensuring the message is conveyed as correctly and appropriately as possible.

Transcreation is about cultural relevance. Short for “creative translation” it allows for more creative flexibility given the goal is to capture the intended message versus just the literal translation. It primarily focuses on maintaining the tone and style from the original text while translation serves to stick to the facts of the original text. Importantly, it takes into consideration the cultural nuances, idioms, and emotional response of the audience.

Transcreation is critically important in creating behavior change communications campaigns. Campaigns should be created by and resonate with the communities they serve – not prescribing, assuming or all-out ignoring the beliefs and preferences of those you want to reach.

Where to start

If you are a marketer looking to infuse transcreation into campaign messaging, here are some simple yet actionable steps you can build into your communication plans and a structure for implementation.

• Engage: Engage transcreation partners as early in the process as possible to help influence things such as formative research, strategy and the overall execution for the primary campaign. They can help identify things that are critical or should be avoided along the way. Transcreation partners may include influencers, minority-owned media companies and/or marketers who develop and produce messaging for the communities of which they are a part.

• Onboard: Present your partners with the right business, brand and creative materials to evaluate and work from, ensuring everyone is operating with the same information at the onset of the project. This includes things like a creative brief, any existing research, timelines, brand guidelines and creative campaign materials and files.

• Collaborate: Ongoing collaboration is essential to stay the course as it relates to timing and deliverables. With most partners, deliverables and expectations are established and agreed upon during the engage and onboard phases. However, plans can change at any moment and teams need to be ready to pivot quickly and come together with alternative solutions or a plan of action.

• Produce: Once the original creative is approved, transcreators will begin to assess and alter the production of the campaign to ensure intent, accurate tone of voice and cultural specificities are represented. Once completed, the client will review for final approval before launch. Should teams find it hard to decide between a couple of alternatives, testing creative with consumers before going live can be an option for gaining feedback.

• Launch: The most exciting part is the seeing your work come to life at launch through your marketing, engagement and/or media plan. Once the campaign is live, be sure to track progress and performance along the way against your measures of success.

Methods for Success

With any partnership, there are standards that make for a trusted relationship and produce the best outcomes and results. When it comes to partnering with transcreators, the following are some proven practices for success.

• Come to the table with respect, appreciation, and a spirit of collaboration
• Listen first. Listening leads to empathy.
• Openly share information and build trust
• Understand and embrace cultural differences; for example, timelines are not perceived the same by everyone
• Build fair and equitable compensation models

Transcreation for behavior change

While transcreation can be applied to any campaign, we find it serves as a strong conduit to improving health outcomes. It aims to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion by establishing an avenue for communications to be created by and for the communities they reach. Qualitative evidence shows that tailored messaging is more likely to be effective in achieving health outcomes because it connects emotionally with the specific barriers, beliefs and needs/wants of the audience, which leads to reduced health disparities. It also provides an avenue to improve equity in the development of communications by paying under-represented and minority-owned businesses or individuals equal or greater compensation to their mainstream peers.

Starting with an inclusive research-based strategy, transcreation increases relevance and meaning, and informs messages that resonate better with audiences – all likely to result in behavior change.

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