So, you’ve come up with the slogan, you’re thrilled with the visual branding and your adverts are short, sharp, and effective. What’s next? If you’ve found success within your home-country give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve done a great job.
Now it’s time to step out onto the international playing field and tap into new markets, reach a greater audience, improve your reputation and expand your revenue.
There’s just one tiny problem: you don’t have a translator.
Translating marketing ideas from one culture to another isn’t just a matter of having the language and dialect translated well: your revolutionary ideas may hit cultural barriers in another country and your clever marketing campaign will simply fly over the heads of your intended audience.
In the past we’ve seen well-established brands such as KFC, Pepsi and Schweppes caught in international marketing blunders, begging the question: if someone like Pepsi can make a huge marketing faux pas, what’s stopping a small business like yours from doing the same?
Before you set off on your worldwide marketing venture, take heed of these reputable brands, who simply had to learn the hard way.
“Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave!”
When Pepsi branched into the Chinese market, they certainly didn’t want to imply their beverage would raise the dead… but their slogan did. The hit slogan ‘Pepsi Brings You Back to Life’ was poorly translated to ‘Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave’ – not an ideal sentiment for a culture that reveres their ancestors.
No Storks in Japan!
Pampers nappy manufacturer Procter & Gamble were hit with a translation blunder when they expanded to Japan. After wondering why sales were so low, Procter & Gamble did some research and found the problem was the packaging, which featured a stork delivering a baby. This Western fable isn’t a part of Japanese folklore, and as a result, the campaign was lost on Japanese parents.
KFC – It’s so good you’ll want to “Eat Your Fingers Off!”
Even the likes of KFC aren’t privy to a translation mishap! When they opened up in China in the late 80s, their infamous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good!” was completely lost in translation and turned into “Eat your fingers off!” Not the most tempting thing to see before dinner…
“Schweppes Toilet Water”
Over to Italy and we have big-wigs Schweppes happily boasting their refreshing “Schweppes Toilet Water” – a serious translation confusing the words “toilet” and
Richard Gere: Unpopular in China
Global giants in the automotive industry have also watched marketing campaigns fail in other cultures, with FIAT using the copy + paste method for their TV ads. In 2008 FIAT released an ad featuring actor, Richard Gere. Unfortunately, Gere is despised in China for his outspoken support of Tibetan independence, and online message boards become rife with people saying they would never buy a FIAT. Oops.
Parker Pens Make You Pregnant!
When Parker Pens moved their campaign to Mexico their in-house translator dropped the ball. Their ads were supposed to say their ballpoint pens “won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Unfortunately, they chose the verb “embarazar” for “embarrass” which means “to impregnate” so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
When big names find themselves in hot water over translation fails, their chances of bouncing back are much higher than when a small company makes the same mistake.
Smaller brands don’t yet have the benefit of a global reputation – their products aren’t widely recognised so the likely-hood of the public simply dismissing them straight off the bat is very high.
Save yourself the embarrassment: invest in a professional translator to really carry your marketing campaign across cultures and languages.
After all, employing a savvy translator now will save you a world of embarrassment in the long run – take it from Schweppes!