Skip to content

The Special Creativity in Marketing Translations

The influence of language is especially keen in marketing and advertising. The choice of words to influence people is very important. The wrong phrase can tangle your audience in misunderstanding and distrust. In writing your marketing and advertising you have to know and take advantage of the emotional impact of your message to the people who will see, read, and hear it. Creativity is part of writing marketing translations.

This is even true of the various versions of English over the world. Certainly, Australian marketing culture is different from American or English marketing culture. These differences can not simply be ignored. But, the potential of misunderstood translation magnifies the cultural effect many times.

It is also true of different languages and cultures within your own country. Most marketing is at least initially done in your native language. However, even in the United States, there are 38 million people who speak Spanish. This is the “low hanging fruit” of inter-linguistic marketing. Domestic marketers should clearly be open to marketing in Spanish, perhaps before venturing into foreign markets.

  • In 2009, HSBC was forced to alter its entire global private banking campaign at the cost of millions of dollars because their slogan “assume nothing” was translated over the world as “do nothing.”
  • KFC opened its restaurants in China in the late 1980s. The KFC slogan, “Finger-lickin’ good” was dutifully translated into Chinese and was interpreted by the Chinese as “Eat your fingers off.”
  • Coors Beer brought its marketing campaign to Spain with its cool American motto, “Turn it loose.” When the slogan was literally translated into Spanish, it was interpreted by the Spanish public as “Suffer from diarrhea.”
  • When Ford introduced the slogan “Every car has a high quality body” into Belgium, the slogan was understood to mean “Every car has a good corpse.”
  • “Fly in leather,” the slogan of Braniff Airlines, hyping its new leather seats in 1987, was literally translated and understand in Mexico and much of Latin America to mean, “Fly naked.”
  • American Motors introduced its Matador version car into Puerto Rico in the early 1970s. They intended the model name to imply power and strength, but the Puerto Ricans interpret the word as “killer.”
  • It works the other way too. When the Swedish company, Electrolux introduced its vacuum into the United States, they literally translated the slogan as “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

How were these big companies to know what the effects of literal translation on their marketing would be? That was just the slogans. What about the nitty-gritty of their marketing text and campaigns? Native translators could have told them.

Most companies doing business inter-culturally make the mistake of translating their marketing copy in bulk with their general copy. Most copy can be translated more or less literally because it is factual and logically straight-forward. Marketing company has to do with emotional appeal. It requires a deep understanding of both the product or service offered and the culture and language into which the marketing is introduced.

Marketing and advertising often take advantage of humor. Humor is one of the most delicate use of words in any language and culture. Humor often comes veru close to the edge of embarrassment and has to be presented very carefully even in a native culture. The translation of humor has to be done by a native translator who can create just the right equivalent, even using a completely different specimen.

Marketing copy has to be written so that has the same effect on readers or listeners as the original but almost always using different concepts. The colloquial language that is especially prominent in marketing, often makes little literal sense in English (for instance, Coors Beer’s “”Turn it loose” or KFC’s “Finger-lickin’ good”). To translate these culturally specific expressions, the translator has to look for similar expressions that have the same emotional effect, with will usually be entirely different words.

Teck Language Solutions Inc. employs only native translators in the target language to make sure what you say is correctly interpreted, not just translated. Please contact us to learn more.

Back To Top