Going Global: Don’t Get Lost in Translation

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:17:44

By Diana Chan | amdlawgroup.com


As businesses go global, catering to the local culture becomes an enormous factor in the success of the brand.  Translations and images are often interpreted in different ways and what works in the United States may not be kindly accepted in another country. Even large corporations that spend millions of dollars on marketing have created failing campaigns from minor mistakes or lack of research.

In China, businesses often try to come up with direct translations for slogans or choose characters that are phonetically similar to the brand. However, translations that seem appropriate may be viewed differently in Chinese culture (and any other culture). For example, Pepsi once launched the slogan, “Pepsi brings you back to life.” But in China, it was interpreted as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan was “finger-lickin’ good” but was interpreted as “Eat your fingers off.”

In Latin America, the Dairy Board of California tried to bring the “Got Milk” campaign to Mexico by running advertisements in Mexico—only to find that what they thought was “Got Milk?” was actually “Are you lactating?”  General Motors brought its Chevy nova to South America; however “no va” means “doesn’t go” in Spanish, which consumers thought was a reflection of the car itself.  General Motors ultimately changed the name of the car to Caribe.

There isn’t a single correct method when expanding your brand abroad as there are several factors to consider: the country you want to expand to, the market, the general culture, local cultures, language, perception of the brand, etc.  And sometimes, especially well-known luxury brands, can get away with not making any changes to how they brand. But, it’s also important to note that mistakes can be easily made when promoting the brand in a global setting.

Stay true to your brand, but remember that how your brand translates in your home country won’t necessarily translate well abroad. Don’t introduce your brand without doing the research.


Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Nations_g175-World_Flag_p43050.html

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