Avoid Turning Your International Marketing Campaign Into A Translation Disaster

by Stratton Craig

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Brands use slogans as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose to promote the products they offer to the public, hoping they will attract more fans and buyers by distinguishing them from the competition. Nowadays, going global is more important than ever and spreading your message internationally could fetch impressive results. But it seems that some companies, even famous ones, fail to adequately transpose their original mottos into other languages, exposing themselves to risks such as offending consumers and achieving lower-than-expected sales.
Sandra Nunes Teixeira, student intern at TermCoord, has compiled a list of the most amusing translation failures, which includes Pepsi´s slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” that was introduced into the Chinese market and was interpreted in the Asian country as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Mistakes such as this have the potential to quickly ruin a brand´s well-established reputation and success abroad, which greatly depends on how its product is received by customers in a particular market.
Before launching a marketing campaign overseas, advertisers need to carefully review slogans, adapt them if necessary and translate them in the right way. It is also vital to consider cultural values, norms, humour and slang before translating a motto and promoting a product overseas, particularly when it comes to slogans that should express the corporate identity of a brand.
Another example of failed translation is the Arabic interpretation of “The Jolly Green Giant”, which directly translates to “Intimidating Green Ogre.” Also, the campaign for the launch of Mitsubishi´s rover vehicle Pajero 4WD in Spain could have been a cause for amusement, as the marketers ignored the fact that the word “pajero” means “jerk” in Spanish before changing the car´s name to Mitsubishi “Montero.”
Famous toothpaste producer Pepsodent is also among the brands that did not translate its marketing message appropriately. The brand promoted its toothpaste in a remote area in Southeast Asia as being perfect for whitening your teeth and the campaign proved to be a big mistake, as the local people chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth which they find attractive.

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