With the ever increasing ease of trading abroad via the internet, the potential to make grave mistakes has risen dramatically. The age old pitfalls of language, culture and stereotyping are now compounded further by the risks of incorrect website copy, Google Translate’s suspect translations and social media fall-out from disgruntled customers.
Firms have always made mistakes. Vauxhall neglected to research that their car brand NOVA meant “doesn’t go” in Spanish – by the time they found out it was too late! Whilst on the car manufacturing theme, Toyota launched MR2 which at first glance sounds safe as a brand name. Anyone who speaks French and reads MR2 will know how bad a mistake that was!
And that’s just language. When you get to cultural differences it becomes a minefield. For instance, Physio-Control who manufacture life-saving medical equipment, used purple silk as a photographic background for their machines as it offset their lovely white defibrillators perfectly, only to find out that in some Catholic countries, purple is associated with death and funerals. Or Kimberly Clark, who carried out a Pan-European launch for its industrial hand wipe Kimtuff showing a positive hand gesture in the UK, not realising that it was a particularly offensive one in Italy. The list of mistakes is endless but with so much brand marketing now carried online the levels of risk have exploded.
Lost in translation
Currently 65% of all search across the globe is carried out in the local language, a trend that is set to grow, yet so many firms still expect English to be the universal language. Surely an opportunity to steal a march and demonstrate commitment to a local country rather than risk looking at worst arrogant and disinterested? Simply translating website copy can be dangerous too as the meaning can be very different from one country to another. Using Google Translate pushes the risks to an altogether new level. This is a genuine Google Translate for a hotel translating Mandarin to English:
Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.”
Meanwhile, managing social media is not as straightforward as it is in the UK. It requires insight into the culture of that country prior to responding. Culture that is dictated by all manner of hidden influences such as religion, beliefs, attitude to age and gender, traditions and social norms. Get it wrong and once it’s out there, IT IS OUT THERE, no going back! The need for the right help and advice is vital.
TAAN is a network of the best independent agencies from around the world who work together to ensure marketing campaigns work, copy doesn’t offend, interactions and relationships run smoothly and websites are beneficial rather than a possible hindrance. TAAN is one of the longest established networks of marketing agencies in the world and its UK agency is Chalk & Ward. If you would like to meet us and chat through how we could work with you to achieve successful international marketing, call Robert Chalk on 01392 666291.