Marketing is a business field that demands accuracy, thorough forethought and exceptional delivery. For any marketing plan to be effective, the audience must be able to understand, interpret and relate to the content. The smallest of errors in any marketing campaign can be costly and prove to damage the reputation of a business, rather than boost its performance. When marketing material is translated into another language, the potential for error is great and as such, it is important that professional and expert translation services are used.
When translating marketing materials into another language, the translator is not only required to make the content understandable to a foreign audience, but they must also ensure that it is geographically relevant, legal and respectful without compromising the importance of the original document. To do this, the translator will evaluate the target audience and ensure that the tone, content, direction and mission of the marketing plan is observed throughout translation. Without the use of an expert professional in such undertakings, errors are not only likely but are usually more apparent and costly to a business. Some of the worst marketing translation errors that could occur are considered below:
Not having an expert translate your marketing material can have terrible results. Some businesses have tried to use internet programs to automatically translate their material and this will only ever offer a word for word or closest word match. This usually means that the message that you are trying to portray will be incoherent or, as Pepsi famously found out, completely inappropriate. The drinks giant tried to translate their marketing campaign with the slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” into Mandarin. However, expert translators were not used and the resulting slogan came out with the meaning of “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”!
Another epic fail in marketing translations for big brands came from KFC in the 1980s. The fast-food brand tried to launch restaurants in China but did not invest in expert professional translation services and their globally recognised slogan “finger-lickin’ good” was translated to the phrase: “eat your fingers off”. These examples may be funny in retrospect but they do little to enhance the professionalism of a business or promote credibility with a new customer base.
Culturally Inappropriate Content
One of the worst marketing errors that any team can make is to not be culturally aware on behalf of their target audience. Any marketing campaign that is not sensitive to specific cultural matters is guaranteed to fail. This means that marketing translators must be careful to ensure that all content is appropriate for the target by considering geographical specifics, religious matters, political restrictions and matters that may be locally important.
The American Motor Company car manufacturer once tried to launch their new model, the Matador in Puerto Rico. Having not benefited from expert translation services, the company were quick to learn that the impression of bravery and strength was not instilled in their new marketplace, as in Spanish, matador translated to “killer”. Puerto Rico was renowned for dangerous roads and so this translation fail was inappropriate and damaging for sales.
Irrelevant or Ignored Legal and Regulatory Content
Marketing translators must have expert knowledge relating to the target country for the campaign in order to ensure that the translated material does not breach any laws or regulations. If marketing material makes reference to any legal considerations, these may not be relevant or true to the target country and so should be removed or revised accordingly.
Untranslated Images to Match Translated Text
If marketing material does not have appropriate images attached to text, the audience is less likely to consider a business as credible or reliable. For example, if the text of the marketing material is perfectly translated and ideally suited to the target but the pictures attached to documents are clearly taken for a foreign audience or contain products that are not recognisable or available to the target audience, the translation efforts will immediately seem lacking.
Instead, marketing teams should be careful to ensure that texts, whether written or spoken, are expertly translated and that any imagery to be used alongside them is also suitable for the target nation.