The Importance of Localization in Advertising Campaigns

On this blog we have often insisted about the importance of hiring a professional translator when in need of a translation. And we have also spoken on more than one occasion about the importance of localization.

In this post we’ll offer a few examples from the world of advertising in which evidently there has been failure on both counts.

A few years ago a famous hair products company launched a curling iron called Mist Stick. The product was a success, and like all successful products, they tried to expand the market for it. One of the new markets would be Germany, but they didn’t take into account that in German “mist” means manure. Strangely enough, people didn’t eagerly run to the store shelves to try out this new hair treatment.

Another interesting case is that of a famous fast food chain whose specialty is fried chicken. It’s slogan is “finger licking good,” but when it expanded its franchise to far-off China, this was translated as “eat your fingers off.”

Also in China, a famous refreshments brand translated its slogan “[refreshments brand] brings you back to life” as “[refreshments brand] brings your ancestors back from the grave.” We’d imagine that they must have had great success among spiritists…

The final example we’d offer is actually a category unto itself, as it’s a mistake that has been made by various brands when translating their ads to Arabic. A particularity of Arabic (as with many other languages) is that it is written from right to left. When dealing with more graphic pieces, this entails the inversion of the entire graphic layout. Unfortunately a well-known U.S. drug company appears not to have taken this into account when they launched their product in the United Arab Emirates, including an image with two drawings depicting before and after taking the drug. But in translating the campaign, they only changed the orientation of the text and not of the images, so in the Arabic version, the relation between text and images was inverted: prior to taking the drug you were perfectly healthy and after taking it you would become ill. There were similar cases with laundry detergent ads, in which the clothing would be all dirty after being washed with the detergent.

Given these examples, all that remains is to insist once again (as if it were a mantra) how important it is to have a professional translation and localization service in order to avoid these kinds of mistakes.