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There are approximately 6,500 spoken languages in the world today, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that things can go wrong when brands try to internationalise their branding.From one country’s culture to another, translating marketing campaigns abroad can be a veritable linguistic minefield.
Slogans can be highly effective for advertisers; if they can create one that sticks, they can craft a lasting image of the organization that will exist maybe even years after a product has left shelves.
For a marketer or advertising agency, it’s important that your team has come to a collective understanding about what your message needs to be.
The Iranian consumer goods company marketed laundry soap using the Farsi word for "snow", which is all well and good until it’s translated into English and distributed as "Barf Soap." We thought Mc Donald’s biggest fault to date was popularising the term “French fries” (apparently they originate from Belgium), but how wrong we were.
When Mc Donald's first brought its signature Big Mac to France, it was translated to "Gros Mec”, which in French reads as "Big Pimp".
This marketing blunder is so famous it’s almost an urban legend.
The popular beer company, seeing great success with its tagline “Turn it loose”, attempted to adapt it to a Spanish market, resulting in the slogan “Suffer from diarrhea”.
Slogans and their accompanying campaigns are some of the best tools advertisers have to connect with their audiences. They are a quick and efficient way to grab attention and build awareness around a given product or brand. State Farm — “Like A Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There” 26.
But even though these short phrases look like they’re easy to create, a lot of time and effort has to go into to crafting a perfect slogan, especially if you want it to stick in people’s minds and persuade them to act. First and foremost, we need to understand what exactly a slogan is.
Tomoyuki Akiyama, a multilingual communications professional based in Tokyo, noticed that “Cheesy chips” was poorly translated as “Low quality chips” and “Crunchwrap Supreme–beef” became “Supreme Court Beef”.
If this wasn’t enough, the phrase “We’ve got nothing to hide” became “What did we bring here to hide it? Salem are a key part of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company brand, famous for being the industry’s first filter-tipped menthol cigarettes.
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem - Feeling Free”, however, became famous for the wrong reasons when it was translated for the Japanese market to “When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.” This classic example might be over-used in translation discussions, but it’s too good not to include.