Lost in Translation (Marketing/Advertising Campaigns)

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Do you have any plans for Cinco de Mayo this Saturday? If so, first you need to know what you are celebrating. Despite advertisements in bar windows inviting patrons to drink to Mexico’s Independence Day (which actually takes place on September 16th), Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of 4,000 Mexican soldiers against 8,000 French forces on the morning of May 5, 1862. While this common misconception may not hurt the bars’ profits on Saturday, poor advertising translations like this will hurt business.

There are many misconceptions when it comes to translations in marketing and advertising. With major brands marketing to several different cultures at the same time, mistakes are sometimes made. If you choose to not do your research, you could end up looking foolish to your target audience. Here are some examples of when bad advertising happens to good companies:

Got-Milk Do you remember when the Dairy Association launched their very successful ‘Got Milk?’ campaign? While it may have made sense to a large percentage of their target market, it translated to “Are You Lactating?” to Latino consumers. 
Pepsi-Logo When Pepsi started marketing its products in China, they translated their slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” very literally. The slogan in Chinese translated to, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”

Chevy launched a car model called the “Nova”. In Spanish speaking countries “no va” means, “it doesn’t go”. Not great advertising for a car in Latin America. 

Most of us understand that bad advertising comes from a lack of knowledge, cultural understanding and sensitivity, but not an attempt to offend. While you may cut these companies some slack, you also won’t hesitate to try a competitive brand that does the research and has insight when developing their message.

National research powerhouses indicate that Hispanics are connecting online twice as fast as the general market. With the rise of Hispanic consumers online, they are not a demographic to ignore when it comes to your marketing plan. Brand awareness and usage levels are often dramatically unlike general market patterns and different product traits are believed to be important by Hispanic consumers. As we’ve seen above, direct translations and usage of general market strategies tend to miss the emotional and culturally relevant elements. While some results may be there, a true cultural-attuned branding effort can attain real sales, strength and recall.

To keep your brand messaging from being lost in translation, partner with a branding expert who has knowledge of the language, culture awareness and strong research skills. Your branding expert needs to have the ability to know what to take into consideration prior to developing any communication piece for your business.

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