The potential to go global with your brand has never been more attractive as it is in 2014. The government is looking to support the export market and when mixed with the rise of e-commerce and omnipresence of digital technology, the time is right for you to look to an overseas market to grow your business.
Part of the process is engaging translation services to help you communicate your brand, product features and benefits and advertising campaigns. It is important to consider cultural values, norms, rules of conduct, humour and slang when promoting a product abroad. This is especially the case for slogans that represent the corporate identity of a brand.
It’s hard to believe – but even some of the biggest brands in the world can fall foul to poorly translated marketing messaging. A failing international marketing slogan can almost always be traced back to mistranslation or lack of cultural understanding.
Some of the most entertaining examples are below – note none of these campaigns were Bubbles projects!
Pepsi’s Resurrection Promise
Pepsi wanted to translate its original slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” into Mandarin. Unfortunately, the translated text ended up meaning “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. The take-away from this error is to avoid simple literal translation!
Braniff Airlines was trying to communicate the luxurious comfort of its first-class airline seats when it launched its “Fly in Leather” to the Hispanic and Latin America market.
Braniff translated “Fly in Leather” too literally for the purpose of the local market, rendering it with the slogan “Vuela in Cuero”, which literally means “Fly in leather”, but which sounds identical in a radio ad to “Vuela en Cueros”, the Spanish for “Fly Naked”.
A great lesson learned – think of the communication medium alongside the translation!
It seems that the automotive market leads the way in terrible translations. We’re sure it’s perfectly innocent product-naming mishaps, but some are simply unforgiveable.
The most famous car mistranslation of all was the Chevrolet Nova, which in Spanish markets translates as “No go.” Surprisingly, the car still sold well in Latin America!
Mitsubishi launched the 4×4 “Pajero” in Spain ignoring the fact that the word “pajero” means “jerk” in Spanish. The car´s name has since been changed to Mitsubishi “Montero.”
Another Japanese manufacturer, Mazda, named its LaPuta car from the book Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, but native Spanish speakers will recognise that La Puta means “prostitute.”
Hopefully that’s another lesson… If you have individual product or sub-brand names, do a bit of research first to ensure that you don’t fall into this trap!
Nothing Sucks Like An Electrolux.
Unfamiliar with the finer points of English slang, the Scandinavian company Electrolux marketed its vacuum cleaner in the English-speaking world with the slogan, ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’.
Or, so the story is told. In fact, there is some debate both over whether this ad ran in the UK or the US and over whether it was an unwitting mistake or a deliberate one, made for comic effect.
Whatever the truth behind the story, employing a translation service with a local, native speaking and cultural-context aware specialist is always beneficial!
Bite the Wax Tadpole?
When Coke first looked into rendering the name “Coca-Cola” into Chinese it came up with a translation that, depending on the precise dialect, meant either “Bite the wax tadpole” or “Female horse stuffed with wax.”
We believe this to be a bit of a marketing myth, with the unfortunate translations being the work of some local Chinese shop-keepers, anticipating the drink’s arrival in China, and producing their own unofficial marketing material, without the knowledge or authority of Coca-Cola.
This shows that you can’t always rely on the local dealers or sales channels to control your translation for you – always go to a translation service provider!
More Unappetizing Beverages…
Second only to the car industry, it seems the huge international drinks market also suffers from poorly translated campaigns with seriously damaging and unsavoury connotations.
In Italy a campaign for Schweppes Tonic water translated the drink´s name into “Schweppes Toilet Water.”
Not wanting to be outdone in the toilet-based mistranslation stakes, the brewing company Coors translated its slogan “Turn it loose” into “Suffer from diarrhoea” in Spanish.
All of these marketing blunders are examples of how even the smallest translation error can have a great effect on a brand´s success overseas. We ensure that our professional translation service prevents mistakes like these by avoiding literal translation, including the original brands context and meaning and having native speaking experts in each country ensuring your brand is consistent across cultural norms and values.