THE COSTLY DAMAGES OF LANGUAGE BLUNDERS
At Hercules, we don’t translate, we transcreate, and we go deep into all local language nuances. Navigating between languages can be like sailing through stormy waters and the chances to face a true language blunder are higher than one may think. Mistakes or missteps easily and frequently happen, putting brands at risk, creating costly damages. Even more today when social media networks quickly accelerate and amplify issues.
“Finger lickin’ good,” is the well-known slogan for fast food restaurant KFC. When the chain entered the Chinese market, they stuck with their slogan which translated for the Chinese audience to “We’ll eat your fingers off”.
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Instead, someone at Parker thought that the Spanish word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company discovered a bit late that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which can be loosely understood as “happiness in the mouth.“
Braniff Airlines got in trouble when it started hyping its new leather seats through Latin America with the same campaign being used in the U.S.: “Fly in Leather.” While the Spanish adaptation, “Vuela en Cuero,” was appropriate throughout much of the region, it had different connotations in Mexico, where the expression also means “Fly naked.”
A few years ago, Audi strongly promoted its e-tron all-electric technology and range of cars, mainly SUV and GT. Electric vehicles, designed to be full-charged and connected. Based on Lithium-ion battery improved technology, with longer running capabilities, and convenient home or on the road charging solutions. All great …. except for the French people. The French word “étron” is a particularly unfortunate choice. It is a synonyms “excrement”, meaning “poop, crap, droppings”.
To avoid these costly and damaging blunders, Hercules provides a solution: the Cross-Cultural Check.
An effective tool to ensure that global communication is always local relevant, anticipate and get signal-alarms upstream, and avoid blunders before any damage.
It enables a selective assessment, allowing to check the core message content and all language components, before launching a global campaign.
Simple and fast to implement, it activates Hercules network of in-market, native, and experienced copywriters – a network of 200+ native copywriters, who deliver messaging that truly speaks to local audiences. They are all highly experienced, minimum 12 years in top level creative thinking and copywriting, used to local adaptation of global major brand campaigns and assets, across any channel, on-line and off-line.
What Hercules looks at and assesses:
- Brand and product names
- Campaign headline and signature
- Any element of text, written copy in any asset part of the campaign
Do they respect local norms, symbols, and standards? Do they translate into ethical, deferential and polite local wording ? Is there any risk that they would localize into local absurd, ridiculous, or laughable terms? Is there a risk that they may hurt any ethnic, social, or religious standard?