The Internet is awash with marketing translation errors that range from cringe worthy to downright unbelievable. The thing is, it’s not only sticklers for grammar or linguistic experts who notice these gaffes, but more importantly, potential customers and investors of the offending brand too. What’s even more mind-boggling is the fact that these blunders are entirely avoidable. But once you’ve put your proverbial foot into your proverbial mouth (and hopefully, fired your marketing team), doing damage control is often a case of too little, too late. While marketing translation errors can be amusing (for your competitors at least), the repercussions of an offended, or confused, target market can end up as the downfall of your entire marketing strategy.
No brand is immune to the ramifications of marketing translation errors.
Global finance group HSBC found out just how costly these mistakes can be when their slogan, “Assume Nothing”, translated into “Do Nothing”, reports Business News Daily. In what was possibly one of the most expensive marketing translation errors in modern history, the group had to fork out over $10 million dollars in order to revamp their international marketing strategy. (Compare that to the cost of using an expert localization company from the get go.) Enough said.
Here’s what you need to be cognizant of:
Resist the urge to use a free online translation tool or hire someone who happens to speak the language.
Online translation tools are handy, to a point. They’re lifesavers when you’re trying to navigate the streets of the Vatican City, or figure out whether your Italian breakfast cereal contains gluten, but they’re far from suitable when tailoring your marketing message to a new market. That said, it’s just as unwise to pander off your translations to someone who speaks the language. Fluency does not equal linguistic expertise – far from it in fact. (For example, I know many fluent English speakers who’d fail grade-school spelling bees.) There’s no guarantee that a novice’s translations will be accurate, or that they’d be aware of crucial cultural differences or market differentiators.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a translation memory.
Before you seek the guidance of a localization agency, get your ducks in a row in the form of a translation memory (essentially a database of past translations). The quality of your translations are only as good as the source material you provide your LSP, which means that an exhaustive, consistent translation memory goes a long way in safeguarding against marketing translation errors. Without a depository of past translations, even seemingly innocuous variations in style, terminology or tone can throw out your marketing message – in its entirety.
Impatient corner cutting is a marketing translation error waiting to happen.
Accurate translation is only possible when using the services of an expert LSP (localization service provider). This process involves numerous considerations and careful attention; if you opt for a rush-job by the cheapest vendor you can find, you’re only asking for trouble. Quality translation involves so much more than merely translating one language into another, requiring the expertise of a localization agency that’s equipped with in-depth insight and a familiarity with your target market. Ensuring that your marketing assets (your logo, copy, source code and images) are accurately translated and culturally contextual, is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make, which means that allowing adequate time for the project should be par for the course.
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