Why You Need a Language Services Company: Translations Gone Wrong

Posted by Dynamic Language on Apr 24, 2015 Apr 24, 2015

18595597_why_you_need_a_language_services_companyThe idea is an exciting one to think about: you are translating your brand's marketing materials into a new language so that you can reach an entirely new set of customers in a different part of the world.

Although your mind might be on the tremendous growth that could result from this expansion, you also need to remember there are several key steps that must be addressed for successful translation:
• You need to understand any informal slang or colloquialisms that might relate to your company and its products or services
• You must ensure that you have local help in the new market
• You must think about the political implications of your marketing efforts


These might seem like common sense requirements to some, but you would be surprised how many companies, even major brands, have flubbed these steps.

What happens if you make a mistake involving one of these concepts? Unfortunately, we don't need to imagine the consequences: there are plenty of real life examples of embarrassing, offensive international marketing failures that wise marketers can learn from.

Translations Gone Wrong: How NOT to Localize Your Brand

Many companies have experienced challenges localizing their marketing materials, but few have failed as spectacularly as these major brands. The missteps of these companies should provide some understanding of why your business needs professional translation help.

Coors: Turn it Loose!

In the 1980s, the Coors beer company was promoting an advertising campaign centered on a “Beerwolf” character. The slogan that went along with the Beerwolf character was "Turn it Loose!" Unfortunately, someone at Coors didn't do their homework on proper translations: in Spanish, the ad campaign was perceived as "suffer from diarrhea." Not the most appealing way to promote a refreshing beverage.

IKEA: When Swedish Names Go Wrong

Swedish furniture company IKEA is well-known for its modern, trendy furniture designs and affordable prices. Another hallmark of the company is its decision to name its furniture after Scandinavian towns.

As the company began to expand into more developing markets, IKEA failed to consider how some of these names might be translated in other languages. In Thailand, for example, IKEA's Jättebra potted plant sounds like a crude Thai term for sex. Realizing their mistake, IKEA hired a team of expert linguists to help them slightly change the names of their products to sound less offensive.

Groupon's Super Bowl Ad: Failure on the Biggest Stage

The NFL Super Bowl is a major sports competition, but it's also one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers to shine. In 2015, viewership of the Super Bowl hit a new record, with over 114 million people in the U.S. alone tuning in to watch.

The stakes (and the advertising costs) are high for commercial advertisements at the Super Bowl. While many companies have used the opportunity to build awareness of their brand, in 2011 Groupon ran a controversial ad that many believed made light of the Tibet-China struggle. While this is less of a translation error than an example of a company that has failed to understand its target audience and culture, it still shows why it's important to be deeply familiar with the international markets that you are appealing to. Though the company stood by the ad, Groupon's fortunes in China haven't been the greatest: in 2012, the company's Chinese arm, Gaopeng, merged with competing coupon company FTuan.

A Better Solution

Instead of ending up with embarrassing results like these companies did, and risking a damaged reputation, you can hire an experienced language services company with professional translators to prevent these mistakes from happening. With marketing specific services like transcreation, professional translators that are subject matter experts will help you enter a foreign market as smoothly as possible in a way that connects with prospects, instead of offending them.

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Topics: Transcreation, Translation, Advertising, Marketing, International Markets