If we’re working to expand our brand abroad, it won’t be long until we realize that, in order to create meaningful relationships with our new audience, we must do the marketing translation of all of our content. If we want to connect with our audience, we need to speak their language. From our product labels to our website’s FAQ section. Everything has to be translated. But maybe translating isn’t enough.
The difference between translation and localization can seem subtle at first, but it’s very significant. While translation only promises to render a message into a different language, localization takes a more global and comprehensive approach to guarantee, not only proper communication but also that the business can adapt to the needs and wants of its new customers and address them in a relevant, innovative and culturally appropriate way.
Nothing illustrates the importance of localization services as a marketing translation fail. Let’s compare three companies that went for localization vs three companies that settled for translation services.
How Pepsodent Got Lost In Marketing Translation
Teeth whitening paste Pepsodent couldn’t connect with Southeast Asian markets, where many cultures prefer to darken their teeth with Betel Nuts. Betel Nuts have been reported to help strengthen the teeth and reduce bacteria. They’re also associated with rituals and ceremonies. As the author of The Vietnam Guidebook, Barbara Cohen explained, in this region, blackening the teeth has historically been associated with nobility, coming of age, and virtue. To make matters worse, the brand’s slogan (“You’ll wonder where the yellow went…”) also left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
Colgate Palmolive’s Localized Approach
As a 2010 report for investors explained, part of Colgate’s international success has to do with a targeted approach to every locale.
“To better understand consumers in rural India, for example, Colgate researchers immersed themselves in the lives of villagers for two days, observing and discussing their oral care habits, how they clean their homes and other daily routines. A key learning was that mothers hope for a better life for their children through education. Based on this insight, Colgate implemented a special promotion that helped build awareness for good oral care habits and
offered scholarships to children. (…) These activities, combined with more traditional media and promotional events, are contributing to market share gains worldwide.”
Sharwoods’ Poorly Named Sauce
British food manufacturer Sharwoods had a rough time in India, after the launch of its Bundh sauces. In Punjabi (a language spoken by over 33 million Indians), Bundh is a vulgar term for a certain body part. While this misunderstanding didn’t ruin Sharwoods’ reputation in India, it certainly could have been avoided.
Kit Kat’s “Good Luck” Chocolate
While a marketing translation fail is the result of not taking the time and resources to get to know your target market, great localization is the exact opposite. A great example of the power of localization is Kit Kat’s Edible
Japanese people tend to say that Kit Kat brings good luck since it sounds similar to the Japanese phrase “Kitto Katsu”.
The brand decided to make the most out of its reputation and took the Japanese tradition of sending good wishes cards for students at the start of the school year.
Kit Kat offered customers a service through which to personalize messages on the chocolate wrappers and send them via post. In a sense, it was an even more customized version of the “Have a Coke With…” campaign.
Coors’ Marketing Translation Fail
It’s often said that American beer manufacturer Coors left a lasting but unsavory impression on Spanish customers when it mistranslated its slogan (“Turn it loose”), making it sound like a subtle way of inviting someone to suffer from diarrhea.
Some argue that this campaign’s slogan was actually “let it go loose with Coors” or “set yourself free with Coors”. But, as author David Wilton notes in his 2008 book Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, Coors never used these slogans for its Spanish marketing. Regardless of the story’s authenticity, it is often listed as an example of a poor marketing translation due to how plausible it actually is.
How Diageo Made Nigeria’s Favorite “Beer”
Diageo, the world leader in spirits production owes its international success, partially, to its capacity to become a heavyweight in markets across the world. Diageo is successful internationally because it’s successful across locales.
In 2013, the company launched Orijin, a line of beer-like beverages specially designed for the Nigerian market. Orijin is marketed as “a bittersweet blend with flavors of African herbs and fruit”. Unlike beer, it doesn’t contain barley or hops, it’s a particular type of beverage that includes plant extracts, oakwood, and wormwood (among other ingredients), and makes the most out of the local flavors.
As Towered Strategy reported, Nielsen Nigeria found that Orijin has a 50% market share if we look at bottled drinks with a similar ABV, and it’s faster-growing than the Guinness Stout flagship beverage (also made by Diageo).
You might be wondering how this relates to translation. Localization doesn’t end with language. Localization is about a whole different approach to doing business in a foreign country. It’s about having a targetted, culturally sensitive approach to each new market.
Know more about language, marketing and transcreation in our free guide on Language and Marketing, transcreation and its importance on brand expansion.