There are famous examples in history where the wrong message has damaged a product, or risked damaging it. I will mention just three:
Do you have milk?
In the 1960s, Pepsi created a slogan that was a big hit in the US: ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’.
When the ad reached China, the slogan was quickly translated, but without verifying that the literal translation had the same meaning as the original message.
The slogan that the Chinese public actually read read: ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’. Great for advertising a zombie movie….
Some of you may remember that, in the 1990s, the United States launched the famous “Got Milk?” campaign to promote milk sales, which were declining dramatically.
When the campaign reached Mexico and South America, it was translated literally: ‘Got Milk? Too bad the Spanish expression is commonly used to ask a woman if she is breastfeeding.
Again, taking into account the cultural context would have helped the success of the campaign and avoided embarrassment.
Imagen: Diana Mercado Cisneros, es.linkedin.com
Imagen: Twitter, @publicidadambie
Perhaps not everyone knows that the famous Japanese car Honda Jazz was originally supposed to be called Honda Fitta.
Fortunately, the carmaker’s marketing people did extensive research in all the markets where they would launch the product and discovered that in Sweden ‘fit’ is the vulgar term for ‘vagina’.
The combination of women and motors would have been too explicit for the Swedish public, but in this case attention to context made it possible to create an effective name everywhere and contribute to the success of the product.
Languages and cultures are not static elements.
There are many elements to consider when creating an effective marketing message in another language, be it a slogan, a product page or an entire advertising campaign.
Suffice it to say that languages and cultures are not static, but constantly evolving. It is not enough to have an excellent linguistic and cultural knowledge of a certain geographic area, but it is necessary to follow the constant evolution of the way people communicate and perceive a message.
This requires knowledge of language localisation, a solid marketing background and the ability to create texts adapted to the target audience. It is a process that requires time, study, continuous updating and communication skills, but it is definitely worth investing in an effective message in order not to miss out on valuable marketing opportunities.