Adam Chrenko

29. February 2024

The Art of Creative Translation: From Dull to Dazzling

Imagine you could magically ‘enhance’ your words just like the photos on your phone. With creative translation, you can! Ditch the dull and dive into the dazzling world of language. We'll compare translation with transcreation on real-world examples from top brands. Think slogans, marketing messages, Instagram posts – the works. Get ready to dazzle!

What’s the purpose of any product or service?

It’s to solve a problem.

And one of the main problems our clients are facing – that we are facing – is summed up in this e-mail we received.

A client sent us a marketing text from their copywriter, insisting that we translate it. Then they got the result.

Enter: The problem

The original text was written by a copywriter. It’s easy to read, easy to follow, and adheres to our brand voice. But the translation – that’s another story. It’s complicated, official, completely different tone. Could you please make it feel more like the original?

Sound familiar?

Translations are dull. Just look at the e-mail: the meaning is preserved, but the feeling, the soul of the native copy is lost.

But how can you – whether you are an ad agency or a business preparing for expansion – solve this?

Magic wand? Sort of…

In this article, we’ll show you how to dazzle with creative translation on real-world marcom texts, posts, and slogans. You’ll see transcreation in action, free of charge!

If you missed our intro to the series on creative translation in marcom you can catch up here: Beyond Translation: Why ‘Good Enough’ Won’t Cut It in Marcom.

But hold up, I don’t need the translation to be creative…

Clients tend to misunderstand the word ‘creative’ in this context. Creative translation, or transcreation, doesn’t mean we’re working in the realm of literature or poetry.

Transcreation is where the magic of copywriting and translation joins forces and solves problems for companies venturing into foreign markets.

Or speaking to followers on social media.
Launching a new service or product.
Rolling out an ad campaign.
A new blog article.

And so on…

A simple rule of thumb is once your text was written by a copywriter, you need a creative translation.


The first reason would be the e-mail above. But what’s more…

You’ve seen the hard work behind each word. Your copywriters and account managers spent hours poring over briefs, talking to clients, and finding the perfect tone of voice for the brand, company, client, or campaign.

Is now the time to throw it all away? Just before you take the next step, and your copy goes international?

Don’t think so.

That’s where we come in.

Creative translation helps you capture the essence of the next big idea, the next zinger, or the next international campaign that will go viral and rattle around in our heads for the rest of the year.

You only have a couple of seconds to grab your dream client’s attention on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Do they keep scrolling?

Or do they hesitate and hover over your well-crafted CTA?

How can we help you get the click?

Transcreation is the difference. And we’ll show you what it’s all about. Let’s dive in.

Transcreation in Action

How and why make the move from dull to dazzling? From bland and grey translation to colourful and exciting transcreation?

The following section is packed with real-world examples and case studies of creative translation in e-commerce, finance, banking, and advertising.

You’ll see what worked in the past and what didn’t.

But you’ll also get an exclusive sneak peek of the process, solutions, and challenges – and how we can help you dazzle with the right words.

Ever wondered what exactly are you paying for?
Will you get more bang for your buck with transcreation?

Find out right here.

Real companies. Real-world examples. Real solutions.


HSBC is one of the largest banking and financial institutions. It goes without saying that their reputation is worth its weight in gold. Here’s an example of a campaign that was translated, without cultural adaptation and input from copywriters, and resulted in a costly disaster.

The ‘Do Nothing’ campaign

Original: Assume nothing – HSBC

The campaign was trying to convey that the bank didn’t make assumptions about their clients’ needs, showing flexibility and a customer-centric approach. And it did – but only in English. When translated verbatim in several countries, it morphed into something like ‘Do Nothing’, leading to a colossal misunderstanding. This ‘little blunder’ resulted in 10-million-dollar costs for rebranding.

HSBC learned from this episode and started using creative translation which saved them from further marketing disasters.


The iconic apparel brand WOOX stands out in e-commerce thanks to its unique voice and style. All the effort behind their compelling, creative, and culture-specific native copy would’ve gone out the window with a simple translation.

That’s why we had to delve deeper and find appropriate cultural and linguistic devices to not only stay on message but to take the reader back in time just like the original.

So how did we convey the importance of historical figures, writers, or their works of art – while maintaining the witty brand message and playful tone?

Here’s an example of what this blend could look like.

Example A:

SK: Aďo Sládkovič napísal najdlhšiu ľúbostnú báseň na svete a nazval ju Marína. Oukej. Keby však predtým oskúšal našu ručne štrikovanú, v Jeseníku podšitú čelenku z ovčej vlny, tú báseň by pomenoval Merina. Už nezistíme, ako by to dopadlo, ale vy môžete lásku k nej otestovať s chladnou hlavou v teple.

EN: Robin Hood and his company of Merry Men were often on the run, left to the mercy of hostile elements of the English weather. In our opinion, they would’ve been far ‘merrier’ in our merino wool. There’s no way to find out, but you and your friends can now enjoy winter in comfort.

Example B:

SK: Väčšina populácie od obratníkov k pólom je v zime zababúšená ako Mrázik. Vystúpte z davu prevrstvených indivíduí v parádnom tenkom kúsku. Zimu zablokuje, charizmu znásobí.

EN: Onion layering is a well-known winter ritual – albeit not very stylish. Our elegant, thin design will keep you warm and ready even for unexpected photo ops. Stay warm, stay rizz.

The English versions have little to do with the Slovak original. It’s a completely different text, but its effect and essence stay the same across languages.

And that’s what creative translation is all about.


You must assume that readers who aren’t Slovak natives have no idea what or who Marína is.

In English, we’re looking for a historical figure or concept which will fit the wordplay. So how do we make a connection between merino wool and English history and folk?

Merino – Merina – Marína

Merino – Merry Men – Robin Hood

And from there, it’s a piece of cake…

Want to peek behind the curtain of this non-traditional collaboration? Read the full case study.

WOOX Case Study

Witty and creative solutions for a unique brand: Onions, outlaws, and clothes

Want to know what these three things have in common?

Read the WOOX Case Study

NIVY by hb.reavis

The social media channels of NIVY are a great creative feat. Tons of wordplay, rhythm, and rhyme. Some would say – almost impossible to express in other languages without sacrificing the style.

And they would be right – but that’s what makes it a proper challenge.

Let’s give it a whirl…

Example A:

Image source

Grab a frappé – hot days are passé

V1: Say goodbye to the heat with our ice-cold treat

V2: Enjoy our ice-cold treat just the way you like it


We leave out the pun, but instead, we use rhyme – which plays into the overall social image of the brand. Transcreation is also about flexibility; giving the client more options is always encouraged – we’ll include two possibilities for the second line of the copy, and let the client decide.

Remember: transcreation always allows for a couple of rounds of revisions and tweaks – unlike other services. Let’s get the creative juices flowing and discuss the options!

Example B:

SK: Nivy – komu fičí appka, ten hranolky pappká

Nivy – get the app, have a snack
Nivy – snack with our app


In this case, we are working with both pun and rhyme. In English, we must decide – which to keep and which to neutralize?

We can anchor our English version in the word ‘app’ which is versatile and helps us with the melody. While ‘snack’ is not an exact match, it follows the tone and allows us to come full circle with the micro-CTA.

It also directly states what we want our readers to do: Download the app! And tells them about the implied benefit (getting a snack!).

A couple of yummy examples indeed!

Example C:

Image source

Nivy roof – a place where the grass is always greener

Nivy roof – move to/visit greener pastures


This is a great example of how the visual affects our final decision when crafting copy. And also of how the meaning can sometimes be shifted to fit the flow, target language, and overall feel of the message.

Changing the meaning even a little bit is a cardinal sin in translation.

But transcreation gives us a lot more freedom – for example, to neutralize an idiom. Or to add one.


Tatra banka is a completely different story. Their posts often reflect on current events in Slovakia and are region-specific. Their tone is also serious and official if we compare it to Nivy.

The whole concept calls for a different approach.

A lack of context and broader understanding could lead to a disaster. Can we make their copy work in English?

Image source

When crafting a creative equivalent in the marcom area, context is everything. That’s why inputs from our clients are essential. But in this case, we’ve got it covered.

If we take the post above at its face value, the translation is straightforward:

Let’s turn on #forblueplanet and for Slovakia
Let’s work #forblueplanet and for Slovakia

That’s what a localized translation would look like. Not great, right? But if the client asks for it, there’s nothing we can do…

When we take the time and consider broader political context, situation, and the intent of the original copy, we might take a different route.

The campaign is referring to the election that took place in Slovakia a while ago. Let’s see what we can do with this piece of information:

Let’s vote #forblueplanet and for Slovakia

And we might even kick it up a notch…

Your vote for Slovakia is a vote #forblueplanet – careful here, this is quite political, and we might warn the client to take care.

Your vote #forblueplanet and for Slovakia counts

Make your vote #forblueplanet and for Slovakia count

And so on…

The English version now tells a different story, doesn’t it? If you want your texts to tell a story in multiple languages, creative translation is an essential first step.

I’m Adam – a project manager with a flair for creative translation and copywriting. I’ve always dreamt of being a writer – and, in a way, Translata is helping to make my dream come true. I like to help colleagues with various translation and copywriting challenges. My favourite topics include marcom, finance, banking, and investments. When I’m not reading Tolkien or translating ads for fun, you can find me playing tennis, hiking, or spending quality time with friends and family.