Five times transcreation services could have saved major brands big problems

Published on September 21st, 2017

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Considering transcreation services? You see, sometimes translation simply doesn’t cut it. When you’re taking brands and marketing campaigns to international audiences, there are all kinds of language traps you could fall into – and translation won’t save you.

This is where you need language experts early on in the marketing process to help you adapt your brand names, slogans and other marketing messages so they’re safe for translation. This is where transcreation services needs to fit into your international marketing strategy and here are five examples of big brands that really needed it.


Nike: Getting fat in China

Last year, Nike celebrated the Chinese new year with a big fat translation mistake of its own. The iconic sports brand decided to promote a new line of shoes by featuring some new year greetings on the upper heel – what could possibly go wrong?

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With the Chinese character “Fa” (getting rich) on the left shoes and “Fu” (happiness) on the right, Nike’s new year marketing campaign went live. And it didn’t take long for the campaign to go viral once online commentators blasted the brand for placing the two characters next to each other, which translates to “getting fat”.

Not the kind of message you want on your latest pair of Nike runners.


GPT: Better out than in

In 1988, the General Electric Company (GEC) teamed up with telecoms giant, Plessy and rebranded as GPT. This didn’t go down too well in France, though, where GPT is pronounced as “J’ai pété” with the unfortunate meaning of “I’ve farted”.

Silly enough but jobs were lost and brand reputation was hurt.


Perdue Farms: X-rated chickens

Frank Perdue is widely credited with creating the first brand for chicken products. Perdue Farms was founded in 1920 by his father, but it was during the 1970s when Frank coined the slogan “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”

The resulting ad campaign was ranked as one of 1971’s finest by Advertising Age.

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Sadly, the slogan didn’t translate so well for Spanish-speaking audiences, who got something closer to “It takes a vigorous man to make a chicken affectionate.”

Even for the ‘70s that was pushing it a bit.


Mercedes-Benz: Living is overrated

Mercedes Benz had a tough start to life in China with a poorly translated brand name. The luxury car giant entered the Chinese market under the name of Bensi, which actually means “Rush to your death” in Chinese.

Just the kind of image you want to promote as a car brand.

Mercedes-Benz quickly changed its Chinese name to Ben Chi after realising the mistake, which translates to something more like “Dashing speed”. A subtle, yet very drastic alteration.


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In Turkish, “pedo” simply means children. Children wear nappies. Surely we can all be adults about this. Sadly, it turns out a product named Pedo with happy babies plastered all over the packaging didn’t go down so well in overseas markets.

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Transcreation services adapt your marketing messages so you can avoid the kind of translation blunders many brands have made in the past. With cultural understanding of each target market, you can be sure your campaigns are suitable for each language before they go live.

Translation mistakes like these might be funny from the reader’s perspective but the brands who make them probably aren’t laughing. The big names like Nike might be able to afford the occasional marketing flop but smaller brands aren’t always so lucky. Transcreation services are there to help you avoid sending the wrong message and finding out how costly the mistake is.


Posted on: September 21st, 2017