Language Translation and Cross Cultural Advertising
Oct 19, 2008 Other 1985 Views
The importance of advertising can hardly be overemphasised in the competitive environment we live in today. No matter what the field may be, whether it is education, health care or the latest fashions, a large part of business success seems to hinge on advertising wizardry. Geographical boundaries are fast disappearing, allowing for exponential business growth across continents. In this scenario, language translation services occupy a niche segment in the services industry today.
Surprisingly enough, when it comes to cross cultural advertising, the implications of effective translation services and localization of advertising content is not that well understood. Somewhere along the way, companies falter in choosing product names or marketing slogans. The impact is felt much later and at great expense to the company, that the marketing spiel is not well received by the target audience owing to a simple slip up in the advertising effort.
A 1985 study consumer behavior covering diverse markets like the U.S., Quebec and Korea, highlighted that there are important differences in the reasons why consumers in these countries buy similar products. The reasons are steeped in the respective cultures. The buying of wine, for example highlights the cultural differences very well. In most countries of northern Europe, wine is considered as a drink for special occasions. In many South European countries, however, it is an every day drink. To use the same marketing terminology for the same product in both regions would be a marketing mistake. Language translation services, when used in the field of advertising, must take these factors into account. Otherwise, it would mean that a lot of money spent in advertising, would just be going down the drain.
There are plenty of instances of translation bloopers caused by a lack of attention to linguistic nuances in cross cultural advertising. Even large business houses have not been immune to linguistic quirks happening on account of faulty translation services and inapt localization of advertising content. Although the reporting of these advertising gaffes provides amusement to the casual reader, the matter has serious implications for those responsible for the marketing of the products.
When launching Coke in China, the advertisers used the name 'Ke-kou-ke-la' because it sounds Coca-Cola. Only after thousands of hoardings had been printed was it discovered that "Ke-kou-ke-la" translated as "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" in Chinese dialects. Second time around things worked out much better. After much re-work, the advertisers came up with "ko-kou-ko-le" which translates as "happiness in the mouth".
In the U.S., most consumers are familiar with the Salem cigarettes slogan: "Salem - Feeling Free." When translated to Japanese, the advertisement read as: "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
The instructions on U.S. made medical containers which read: "Take off top and push in bottom," was not so well received by the British, owing to the strong sexual undertones the phrase signified.
These and many other mishaps that have occurred in the world of advertisement, go to show how important it is for providers of corporate translation services and localization to pay attention to the linguistic preferences of target audiences from a cultural standpoint.