Transcreation vs Cultural Consultation: What’s the difference?

Kaylie Stansfield, Head of Marketing Americas, explains the difference between transcreation and cultural consultation, and how Tag’s cultural consultation experts helped a client avoid a potentially multi-million dollar expansion strategy error.


Brands that operate across international markets know that word-for-word translation of marketing messages rarely delivers the right intent.

That’s where transcreation experts come in. They understand the cultural nuances of a specific market and adapt messaging and creative to deliver content that resonates perfectly with the intended audience. Words, images and colors that evoke positive emotions in one market, may have a completely opposite effect in another market. It’s the job of the transcreation expert to know the difference.

But cultural adaptation is not just about marketing messages. It needs to start a lot earlier — with your product research. Here’s a great example.

Tag’s cultural consultation experts worked on an international expansion strategy with a US headquartered direct-to-consumer sustainable footwear company. Being a shoe brand, they wanted to first break into the Italian market, thinking of empowered Italian women in practical, comfortable, sustainable footwear. Their key brand message of female empowerment through sustainability, practicality and comfort worked well in the US, but when our team of cultural consultation experts sense-checked in Italy, it fell flat.

Here’s why. The shoes are made of recycled plastics, which in many markets is a win, but in Italy, combining plastic and footwear goes against their rich heritage of being leather shoemakers. With this information, we were able to advise our client to take a different approach.

Had it not been for this on-the-ground, first-hand local knowledge, the client risked losing millions of dollars through a failed product launch. By shifting focus to other regions, we helped them successfully launch in Germany, England and Australia, where the product, staying to true to its key message, landed perfectly with new audiences.