Various companies have made linguistic and cultural errors when expanding their businesses into global markets. The lesson to avoid your own international marketing fails? It’s extremely important to localize your marketing materials by using professional translation and localization services from reputed language service providers!
Localize, Localize, Localize!
Companies often make branding and brand image their top priority. If you are an international company, translation and localization services for your brand should also be a high priority. Direct translation of your marketing materials – without adapting them for your target audience – has proven to be not just ineffective but also detrimental to marketing a product abroad.
The importance of localizing and culturally adapting cannot be overemphasized, especially when expanding into global markets. This holds true even for a country where English is a predominant language. For this reason, most companies employ language specialists.
However, this lesson has been learned the hard way by brands coming to terms with some pretty awkward international marketing fails. We’ve found 10 painful, but telling marketing translation fails to highlight just how important it is to avail professional translation and localization services from a reputable language service provider!
10 Awkward International Marketing Fails due to not using Translation and Localization Services
Orange in Ireland
First on our list of international marketing fails belongs to the telecom company Orange. In 1994, the company launched its campaign with the following advertisement: “The future’s bright…the future’s Orange.” One of the areas where this campaign rolled out was Northern Ireland where it did not go over very well.
This was due to the Protestant fraternal organisation known as the Orange Order, represented by the color orange. As a result, rather than the intended meaning, the implied message was that the future is Protestant loyalist, thus not very popular among the Irish Catholic population.
The second marketing fail: LifeFitness. LifeFitness is a manufacturer of exercise equipment whose logo “LF” unfortunately looks a lot like “4F”.
The problem with this logo is that in the American military, if you are drafted and categorized as 4F, it means that you are physically unfit for the army. Thus, not the best logo for a fitness machine.
Third on the list: Pepsi. One advertisement by Pepsi in India showed an image of a young boy serving Pepsi to a team of Indian cricket players as they celebrate their victory.
This provoked a strong negative reaction for many viewers. The city of Hyderabad, where the television ad was displayed, sued the soft drink company for glorifying child labor in the commercial.
In fourth place for awkward marketing fails: Crayola. Binney & Smith Crayola Crayons were forced to change the names of some of their crayon colors due to growing social pressure. In 1962, the company replaced “flesh” color with “peach” to acknowledge the fact that there are a wide variety of skin tones.
Understanding your audience and adapting your message accordingly is critical even when marketing within your home country. Having learned from the past, in 1999 the crayon company decided to change the name “indian red” to “chestnut”. Ironically, the color was not a reference to Native Americans, but rather named after a pigment that came from India.
Fifth place on the list of international marketing fails due to not using translation and localization services is the well-known American baby food company, Gerber. Gerber found it difficult when advertising in France due to the fact that the word “gerber” is very similar to the French slang word for vomiting – the actual verb in the infinitive form meaning to vomit.
The name in French, along with the texture of the jar contents, makes it especially difficult to consider this product a healthy food for your growing baby. Needless to say, their brand name failed not only in France, but also in the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada.
Sixth is the ever popular IKEA. The Swedish furniture company has a workbench on wheels that is sold in their catalog under the name “FARTFULL”. It helps to know that in Swedish, which is a Germanic language, the root word Fährt means to travel in a vehicle with wheels. This makes the name more logical given the design and emphasis on mobility.
However, native English speakers that are unfamiliar with Swedish or German may find the name somewhat amusing.
Intimidate Dating Service
Seventh place belongs to an Israeli dating service. In Israel, there is an ad which promotes a dating service called “Intimidate Dating Service” in English. To better understand the word choice, it helps to know that the word “intimi” in Hebrew actually means intimate.
Of course in English the name of the dating service may be problematic since most people are already intimidated by the prospect of meeting new people. They don’t need a service that appears to further intimidate you in the process of matching you with a partner.
Irish Mist Liqueur
Although attractive to native English speakers, the Irish Liqueur called “Irish Mist” was a not as popular in Germany. Thus it lands in the eighth spot on our list of international marketing fails.
In German, the word ‘mist’ translates as dung. Apparently, the company marketed the drink as “Irischer Mist“, which literally translated into “Irish Dung” in German. Naturally, the product was not as big a hit as the company had expected.
Traficante Mineral Water
Ninth place belongs to an Italian water company. “Traficante” is an Italian brand of mineral water. In Spanish, however, the meaning of the brand name is most strongly associated with the word for drug dealer, as in “narcotraficante“.
For obvious reasons, individuals in Spanish-speaking countries didn’t respond well to the translation of this brand name, as it tends to instigate more fear than thirst.
And finally in the tenth spot we have Sharwoods sauces. When Sharwoods ran a campaign to launch its new Bundh sauces in India, they immediately received calls from numerous Punjabi speakers. The issue was that “bundh” sounds very similar to the vulgar Punjabi word for one’s behind.
Apparently the company did not feel the need to change the name of their product: “We hope that once they (Punjabi speakers) understand the derivation of the Bundh sauce range, and taste the delicious meals they can produce, they will agree that it is miles apart from the Punjabi word that is similar but spelled and pronounced differently.”
Planning an Effective Marketing Localization and Translation Strategy
Naturally, no brand wants to go through an awkward international market introduction. In order to avoid this, marketers need to consider not only a translation strategy for their branding and advertising materials, but a strategy that incorporates the cultural differences and preferences of the market they are entering.
Thus, a well thought-out marketing localization strategy goes hand-in-hand with procuring translation and localization services from a reputable language services company. Everything from words to colors can have different associations across cultures. All angles of a brand must be considered, and it should not be taken for granted that a target market will accept your brand as is, simply because the name is well known, or the branding has worked elsewhere.
Consulting with translation and localization services experts is a must when translating and adapting any marketing materials, websites, and even products for a new market.
About Language Connections:
Language Connections is a language service provider. We specialize in technical, medical and legal translation, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, website and software localization, and corporate language programs and interpreter training. We provide certified, professional translation in 100+ languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, and French. With over 20 years of experience, we have expertise in all major industries including the life sciences, patent and immigration law, international business, global education, and advanced technology. We offer cost-efficient interpreting and conference solutions that will meet your multilingual needs for all types of international events – business meetings, conferences, lectures or presentations.
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