Talk To Me in Ways I Will Understand
"Certain brand names or taglines have completely different meanings when translated into various languages. For instance, The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign 'Got Milk' prompted it to expand its advertising efforts to Mexico. Unfortunately, it soon realized that the popular slogan, when translated, meant 'Are you lactating?'
Alternatively the absence of language can also be a barrier. For example, when a major consumer packaged goods manufacturer started selling baby food in Africa, the company decided to use the same packaging as in the United States, with a smiling baby on the label. Later, they learned that in Africa, because many consumers are unable to read English, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of what is inside.
So before inadvertently insulting or alienating people due to innocent, yet damaging language errors, be mindful of a couple of basic rules and use surveys to validate messages and language prior to execution:
1. Conduct local background research for each market and for every language that you plan to target. After all, one Spanish-speaking country will have words and interpretations that are different from another. For example, Portuguese in Brazil is different from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and Parisian French is slightly different from the French of Belgium, Switzerland and Quebec. The language differences are even further exacerbated when working with the languages of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and beyond.
2. Never underestimate the importance of translation. At a minimum, marketers must ensure that their translations are done by translation experts who understand how to write marketing copy. It's no longer enough to use a native-speaker, journalist or other professional writer. Today, the translator should be a trained copywriter as well. Before executing a campaign blind, validate through focus groups and surveys.
3. Test, test and test again. Before spending time, money, and resources make sure that both you and your customer are in syc,it's better to leverage surveys and measure the effectiveness of your efforts prior to launching a major campaign. Not only will this maximize your efforts and save money, but more importantly it might preserve your brand from a multicultural misstep."
From "Multicultural Marketing: Why One Size Does NOT Fit All" by Jim Stachura, director of research and analytics at Aelera, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based consulting company; and Meg Murphy, a vice president at Inquisite, an Austin, Texas-based provider of online survey technology. Stachura can be reached at (770) 619-7787, and Murphy can be reached at (512) 225-6800. For more, visit www.americanmulticultural.com .