Or The Localization Question...
Years ago, when I was a college student in Quebec, I visited the wonderful city of Boston, Massachusetts. During a little walk in a commercial district, surrounded by boutiques and restaurants, I saw a sign: “House of Chien”. It was a Chinese restaurant. I said to my buddies: “I'm not going to eat there!” Everyone started to laugh. As honorable as this restaurant and its menu may be, its appeal to a French-speaking consumer was close to none.
See, if you translate “House of Chien” in French, you get “Maison de Chien”, meaning “House of Dog”. Not mouth-watering to tell the truth. You never mix dog with cuisine in the French-speaking market. I don’t know if Mr. Chien had plans to expand its business in French-speaking Quebec but if it was the case, I hope he found another name for its banner.
This eloquent case of “lost in translation” shows how important the localization (and transcreation) process is to successfully launch a brand outside a primary market.
Too often, businesses spend millions to create fantastic campaigns in their primary market just to see their efforts wrecked because they have chosen to skip the localization process of their marketing to save a few bucks.
Many big corporations have learned the lesson the hard way costing them millions of dollars for their branding and reputation.
Here some well-known marketing blunders based on poor translation and localization in international markets.
In Taiwan, the Pepsi’s slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi generation.” became “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” Good news?
In Spanish, the Coors slogan “Turn It Loose” promised their beer drinkers consumers that they will “Suffer From Diarrhea.” Burp!
In the US, the Swedish vacuum company, Electrolux, tried its best to win the heart of the American consumers with “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. Actually, it sucks.
The Swiss beverage company Schweppes probably didn’t take the time to review the Italian version of its “Schweppes Tonic Water” which became “Schweppes Toilet Water.” A gin with toilet water, anyone?
Those examples illustrate what happens when a marketing campaign fails to consider the cultural, historical and social specificities and norms of a foreign language in a target market.
For any organization, investing time and money to localize their marketing material should be a priority. Poor translation and localization can hurt sales, hurt the reputation, and even create negative press.
As for websites or software, localization means a lot more than simply translating your content in another language, converting currency and measurement. If you want to be taken seriously, inspire confidence, and make your business grow globally, you’ve got to connect with your audience. You want to create an agreeable feeling of proximity with the consumers.
For example, if your content includes references to local pop culture, make sure to find an equivalent in the target market. If you use a sports analogy to sell your products in French Canada, use hockey instead of, say, basketball (although basketball is pretty popular in Quebec, nothing compares to hockey). Considering cultural, historical and social specificities of a target market is not a “plus” it is a “must.”