International marketing is an ambiguous game at best. For a successful international marketing strategy to unfold companies need to tackle all the different elements of other country’s cultures. This ranges from understanding other countries-,attitude and values, non-verbal communication habits and most importantly being able to smoothly translate the essence of their marketing message to their new target market. This article will focus on 5 of the biggest international marketing failures that were crippled by sub-par translation. The results although often humorous raise a serious point for marketing managers all over the globe, if you don’t get your translation spot on, the campaign will fail.
Case Study 1: KFC “Finger licking Good” campaign in China
In 1987 KFC kick started their “Finger licking Good “campaign in mainland China. Chinese has over 12 dialects making it a hard language to work with in any case. Unfortunately KFC like many businesses wanted to expand too quickly and the importance of accurate translations was pushed to one side. However it did not take KFC too long to see why their campaign was not resonating with the Chinese public. Mainly because their household “ Finger licking good campaign “ translated to asking Chinese consumers to literally “ eat their own fingers “.
Case Study 2: Coors “turn it loose” campaign
American beer producer Coors found out the hard way that slang does not translate well into other languages. Although their “turn it loose “- campaign was highly successful in their home market, the campaign was not so successful south of the border in Mexico. Spanish is of course Mexico’s native language and in Spanish the phrase “turn it loose “literally translates to “suffer from diarrhea”. The campaign certainly caught the eye of Mexican consumers but not for the right reasons.
Case Study 3: Auto Giant Fords failure in Belgium
In an attempt to showcase their technological and engineering prowess the marketing team at Ford created an ad campaign that they thought said “every car has a high quality body.” Unfortunately this translated to “every car has a high quality corpse”. This juxtaposed the image they hoped to create and the Belgium public were left far from impressed.
Case Study 4: American Motors- The Matadors
It is not always the marketing message that causes upsets in translations. In this case it was the product name that was lost in translation. In 1970 American motors launched its new mid-size car, “The Matador” in Puerto Rico. The name was intended to evoke connotations of courage and strength. In Spanish, matador translates to “killer “which in a country filled with dangerous roads, left a rather cold undertone.
Case Study 5: Pampers and the Stalk Industry
Originally when Procter and Gambler started selling its Pampers diapers in Japan, it used a stalk delivering a baby on the packaging. Although this packaging proved extremely popular in the US, the campaign did not take off in Japan. After looking into the matter, Procter and Gambler uncovered that stalks carrying babies are not a part of Japanese folklore. Instead giant floating peach bring babies to their parents.
Marketing is a fickle game where public perception and social expectations are constantly changing. Therefore it is imperative that organisations messages resonate with the social consensus that is currently operating, in the target market they are trying to penetrate. That is why clear and accurate translations are needed. At Global Voices our expert linguists are specialists within their specific industries meaning we provide quality translations that help to drive the key messages of your marketing campaigns.
Global Voices Ltd. (Head Office) – Scion House, Innovation Park – Stirling – FK9 4NF – United Kingdom –
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