How Translation Blunders Can Hurt Your Brand

Companies spend a million dollars to advertise. Take a look at Super Bowl Pepsi ads, whether it’s a celebrity hit girls like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, or Pink in gladiator outfits or Kendal Jenner marching the street holding the can of Pepsi, the audience always reacts to how a brand is promoted.

This means two things; be open to cultural integration and have a peaceful gesture towards criticism or backlash you may face. We know each culturally oriented audience views a brand differently. Brands need to be advertised differently in each culture for which purpose you need a localization expert on your side to ensure you avoid creating any blooper effect (any blunders).

Power of the translation: what if it goes wrong?

The important part is to understand that a good translation is your key strength to enter a foreign market. Internet is filled with examples of poorly done translations by popular brands. These blunders have resulted in funny and angry reactions and huge headaches from the audience. One wrong word or misinterpreted phrase can result in millions of dollars sinking the brand image.

Some of the infamous examples are;

1. The most common example is KFC, entering the Chinese market, with its slogan “Finger Lickin Good” translated as “Eat your Fingers Off”. Yeah, it doesn’t sound so catchy in the Chinese version, does it?

2. California Milk Processor Board’s ad campaign tagline “Got Milk” got a funny Spanish translation “Are You Lactating?”

3. The legendary tagline by HSBC in 1999, “Assume Nothing” got interpreted into “Do Nothing” in some languages.

Brands like KFC and HSBC can rebound from a translation failure but not every other brand is strong enough to do the same. Rebranding costs tens of millions and rejuvenating is not every brand’s forte either.

Consequences of poor translation

If you are lucky, the error will be noticed at first sight, before launching a campaign, but in the worst-case scenario, it reaches the public’s eye and can cause heavy brand embarrassment. Besides these examples, let’s take a thorough look at how poor localization can impact your sales, profitability, and brand image.

1. Inappropriate References

Your text may not be relevant to the target audience of a foreign market which can cause an uproar. Graphics, use of color, image, or even tagline, anything could go wrong and become offensive in nature.

For instance, Nike faced fire for the launch of the Nike Air Max 270 shoe. The uproar came from Muslim audiences around the world when the logo highly resembled the Arabic word “Allah”. Unfortunately, this wasn’t for the first time either, it happened back in 1997 for the very same reason. Nike realized the blunder, apologized, and stopped selling shoes with the logo, and had the design changed.

Another famous example is Procter and Gamble when they started selling Pampers in Japan. The image of the product shows a stork delivering a baby. It confused the Japanese audience because according to Japanese folklore, newborns arrive by the courtesy of giant peaches floating down the river.

2. Creates Confusion

The translation is not limited only to words, but numbers can be translated as well. Numerical formats vary from region to region. For instance in English-speaking countries comma represents the separation of thousands like 100,000.

But in some countries instead of using a comma, the decimal point is used. Likewise, dates can be wrongly interpreted for instance 2/11/18 means November 2, 2018, in the UK but in South American countries like Brazil, this format means April 11, 2018.

Interpretation of dates and numbers highly depends on the targeted region and any mistranslation can create confusion for the audience.

3. Poor User-Experience

The moment a user lands on a webpage, they judge it by the looks of it. How the words are presented, and the theme used has a greater impact on the audience. Usually, a user sticks to the website for 10-20 seconds. If there is an error in the content, the time duration will automatically reduce to less than 10 seconds.

Errors like spelling mistakes, poor translation, clumsy or complex words can increase the difficulty level of reading for the user. It has a huge impact on sales because if the customer is unable to understand the wordings he will not stick to the website and will shift to another website. This means you’ll start losing customers and sales.

With poor grammatical errors, users will visit less and less every day.

4. Poor Search Engine Results

Did you know the customer is less likely to visit the page if it’s not easy to find in the first place? A poorly translated website can lead to lower sales and therefore, wrongly interpreted keywords can misdirect the SEO practice as well.

Automatic translation can be pretty much inaccurate so you cannot rely on the machine translation solely. To localize the content, you need to hire a reliable marketing translation partner to ensure good quality translation and get error-free results.

If you get it right, a good SEO practice can help you to gain more followers and users on the website. Otherwise, the competitive landscape can be the battleground you lose in the first place with a misplaced keyword for the wrong audience.

5. Increased Costs

Rebranding is costly, risky, and need to be catered carefully. Poor language can cost you more than sales. Not every brand can overcome the poor experience in the foreign market and customers may not forget their bad experience with a particular brand.

Like the example of KFC and HSBC mentioned above, they quickly recovered from their translation mistakes but it did cost them heavily for a comeback.

Translation does not come cheap but it doesn’t mean you need to be just getting it done. The translation is more than just translating words, it’s about understanding culture. One thing to remember is that rebranding is costly and not every brand can do it successfully.

How CCJK Can Help You

It’s tempting to cut costs with translation, but every once in a while you need to hire translation services for the creative content and assure quality transition from one language to another. Developing a proper translation strategy and keeping the cultural differences in mind can help you to overcome translation barriers.

We have been providing effective marketing translation services for years and know what it takes to transform your advertisements and other marketing content for different regions to drive desired results. Get in touch to know more!

Read Also: 10 Most Embarrassing Translation Blunders

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