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Lost in Translation

Marketing Mix-Ups

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When a company gains momentum and they find themselves snowballing towards global recognition it is important that they adapt their brand respectively. One of the first steps towards this is asking yourself the make-or-break question: “to translate or not to translate?”

Slogans. They’re often catchy, unique and appeal to our funny side. Translating them is a great way to extend your marketable demographic. If you do it right.

Here’s what not to do if you decide to take the plunge and translate your precious slogan…

A much too literal translation can end up with some horrifying consequences as Pepsi and KFC have quickly learnt from their ventures in China. Pepsi’s already hefty claim that their consumers will ‘Come Alive with Pepsi’ becomes a haunting message when translated to ‘Pepsi: Brings Your Relatives Back from the Dead’. Now, that’s something Coke can’t compete with!

Translators up in the KFC headquarters are also struggling with their Mandarin idioms as they turn their innocently delicious slogan ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ into a violent threat with ‘We’ll Eat Your Fingers’. That’s not what we ordered.

Between threats of cannibalism and reincarnation, Coors isn’t doing so well either. Their funky, teenager friendly slogan ‘Turn it Loose!’ when translated into Spanish becomes ‘You Will Suffer from Diarrhoea!’ Here, I think it’s the exclamation point that scares me the most. Coors undoubtedly was flushed away by Spanish competitors that don’t promise intestinal trouble… Unless a mild laxative is what you look for in your beverage.

Some slogan translations are just downright hilarious as demonstrated by McDonald’s. Crowds of joyous spectators and giddy children gather around for the unveiling of the classic burger, the Big Mac, in France. Ribbons cut, banners revealed and shops open to signs promoting the wonderful new ‘Gros Mac’! What a wonderful day! Or so it would be if ‘Gros Mac’ didn’t mean ‘Big Pimp’ in French. Mothers cover their children’s eyes and flee from the ghastly sight as McDonald’s professional French translator scratches his head in confusion.

The motto of this tragic translation tale is always, always, double check with a native speaker if you do decide to dip your toe in the linguistic pool.

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