Aug 1, 2012

lost in migration

OK, 'Lost in migration' is the name of a brain game I like to play, but this post is about bumps a company can hit when migrating its brand into new markets.

Since these days I'm working on registering brands at international trade marks institutions, I remembered having read about unfortunate trade names meaning when you translate them into another language.

The companies have two choices when launching internationally their brand: either keep it in home language, or translate & adapt it. For sure, an international brand cannot ignore local cultural values and rely on pure luck for not being perceived as offensive, negative, embarrassing or a joke on foreign target markets.

The most recent case is that of Lumia phone from Nokia, which apparently is Spanish slang for 'hooker' [google, please don’t index my blog for this keyword!].

But there are several famous translation-fails coming from keeping a brand name untranslated and promoting it in external markets without checking with local native speakers. Just think about the Swedish car magazine Fart [meaning "speed"] or about IKEA's Fartfull desk being promoted on English-speaking markets.

Ever noticed how global businesses tend to bypass the localization process, by giving abstract, tech-sophisticated-like names to their products? Car companies are often using a combination of letters and to name their models, avoiding situations such promoting in Spain the Chevy Nova ["doesn't go"] or Mazda Laputa [needless to…].

I can imagine that this is very laborious process for a global company that launches new products / brands often. However, for now, the solution remains working with local marketing specialists that are native speakers and can assist on the meaning of your brand name, ease of pronunciation or local perception on the colors of your brand.

Yes, colors too. Xerox even has a section on its website called International Color Guide and a PDF with this guide about colors' meaning in 18 countries  It doesn't include my country, though, so as to verify the information. However, there seems to be a trend for cross-cultural acceptance of colors and meanings, especially among the youths. 

Also, check out this cool Visual Map of Colours In Culture:

Reading extracts from the Cross-Cultural Meanings of Color Study done by UI Industrial design professor Surya Vanka @University of Illinois, I've learned even more about color meanings throughout the world. E.g. I didn't know about purple being the color of mourning in Thailand or that white is often associated to death in China. Luckily, now I know that one should never produce green toilet seats in Iran or try to sell black scooters in India.

1 comment:

  1. there may be several colours associated to death in China