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The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising

Use Professional Advertising Translations to avoid these pitfalls

With the ubiquity of the internet and social media, the world really is your brand’s oyster. You can reach billions more consumers than was possible just 20 years ago, but while it’s much easier to access foreign markets, it’s far harder to make a connection with consumers that speak a different language. This is where localisation comes to the rescue.

Localisation is not just about translation, though. It’s also about brand designing in a way that makes it easy for a new reader or listener to understand what you are saying. There are many pitfalls in this localisation translation process, as many a prominent brand has discovered.

Here are 10 translation blunders in advertising

… and how they demonstrate the need for professional human translation and localisation, followed by tips on how to get your marketing customisation / localisation right first time.

  1. Coors was left red-faced when it translated its Turn it Loose slogan into “suffer from diarrhoea” in Spanish. This blunder highlights the difficulty of translating slang between languages.
  2. Though chicken feet are a staple in China, citizens of the PRC were probably surprised to be encouraged to “eat their fingers off” by KFC when it tried to localise its “finger lickin’ good” slogan into mandarin.
    Source
  3. When Mercedes-Benz entered China, it chose to do so under the moniker Bensi, or rush to die.
  4. After the last two ad mishaps, Chinese consumers could probably have done with a Pepsi, given the brand promised the drink “brings you back from the grave” when it launched in China. The original brand promise was that it “brings you back to life.”
    Source
  5. Staying with the death theme, Ford advertised in Belgium by translating the slogan “every car has a high-quality body” into “every car has a high-quality corpse”. (They just need a Pepsi.)
  6. Over in the UK, Ikea introduced the Fartfull workbench into the UK, which raised much mirth.
  7. And while Paxam’s Barf washing powder also raised a few chuckles as the word means to vomit in English slang, other errors have been more insensitive.
    Source
  8. For example, Gazprom named its Nigerian company Nigaz.
  9. Every brand hopes its marketing campaigns drum up more business, but HSBC Bank didn’t even get off the starting block when it translated its “Assume Nothing” slogan into “Do Nothing” in many countries under a 2009 global campaign.
  10. But when it comes to bizarre slogan translations, The American Dairy Association excelled by asking consumers whether they were lactating, instead of the catchy “got milk.”

What is localisation? Translation, Localisation and Transcreation

If your business specialises in a particular industry, you may have developed a comprehensive dictionary of frequently used language words for your customers. You also may be translating print materials, such as brochures or web content for mobile phones and tablets. But what exact service do you need? Translation is the process of reworking a text from a source language into another language, maintaining the original meaning. Meanwhile, localisation is the process of adapting content or a product or service for a specific culture or market, and transcreation, a portmanteau of translate and creation, is a form of translation that preserves the original context, emotion, tone and intent. Transcreation often begins with a creative brief, rather than the source text, and includes the translation of images into a different context. Its uses include software localisation services.

Why it’s important to localise

Creating a product or service that caters to a global audience is a competitive advantage in today’s economy. Being able to reach the widest range of customers possible means your products or services are easier to sell in other markets. The best way to do this is to localise your product or service. A common misconception about localisation is that it’s an up-front cost and comprises a one-off period of manual translation. These are actually quite different things involved in localisation and the process is often a continuous one.

Tips on how to get localisation right first time

Use a professional multilingual team for localisation and translation. That way, localisation can be better planned and executed and you’ll be less likely to experience a faux pas. Test your translation and localisation as you go along in order to spot the right choices for the correct audience. The professionals don’t rush into creating a potentially misleading translation in order to quickly launch a campaign, service or product.

Localise your ads on a trial basis, not on the basis of any preconceptions you may have about the language. Consider all the options, have multiple mock-ups prepared for each language and test which is the best way to communicate your message in the market.

Find the right translator

Finding a translator who speaks the language you need and who can translate professionally is one thing. Finding a translator who speaks your target market’s native language and understands the cultural nuances can be quite another. If you don’t speak the language or you don’t have a translator who speaks it, a popular alternative is to contact a professional translator agency, which can ensure that the translation is done professionally and accurately, and that there will be no surprise embarrassments.

Take care of your target audience

Making sure you understand your market is imperative if you want to get localisation right. If you’re thinking about applying for a European franchise licence or entry into the Japanese market, you need to find out what your target audience is comfortable with. Look at the language the country uses for its official communication. You may find that they use only one language, like Spanish or Portuguese, or that the majority of citizens use several languages, like English, Chinese, and Korean.

Identify your consumers’ cultural needs

Understanding the needs of the people you’re targeting is just as important as understanding your market. In many cases, your target audience will be multi-ethnic, having interacted with a multitude of cultures. This is especially true in a diverse region like Asia. Moreover, localising from two closely related languages and cultures, for example with an English to French translation service, is less challenging than localising between two unrelated languages, such as with English to Chinese translation services.

Whether you need the best legal translation Hong Kong has to offer, scientific and technical translation, or game localisation services, getting localisation right means finding the right localisation translation service. To find out more, get in touch with Into23 today.