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Merde! How to avoiding epic international marketing failures

When it comes to globalising your marketing campaign, it’s worthwhile remembering that this is no simple translation task. Indeed, whilst you wouldn’t be the first to just to fall into the trap of mis-translated slogans, this is the kind of…misshap…that sticks to a brand. Much as the Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota, discovered when they launched their “MR2” in France. Little did they realise that the MR2 is spoken as “merde”.

So to avoid putting your foot in your mouth on an international scale, here are 4 useful tips to keep in mind when it comes to globalising that campaign:

1. Watch your language

Your language is essential to making sure your target audience feel spoken to. Even if you’re targeting an English-speaking market, remember to check if you need British English or American English. Whilst most of the content might still be understandable, knowing the differences and adapting your content is vital. Especially if you’re selling ‘football’ shoes…

2. Mind your manners

Different countries mean different cultures. Before you even think about launching into a new area of international marketing, you should definitely do some research on the culture there. Common associations in Western cultures may be completely lost elsewhere in the world, as was found out when Pampers were launched into the Japanese market, where giant peaches – not storks – traditionally bring babies. Go figure.

3. Discover hidden meanings

Regardless of whether it’s for your company’s website or Facebook page: You definitely want your message to be understood correctly – beyond the language you use. Remember that colours and symbols have significant cultural relevance, too. For example, in Asian countries, a face painted in white is commonly associated with Death, which is something McDonald’s discovered. Their clown figure, Ronald McDonald wasn’t exactly greeted with laughter.

4. Count your words

Whilst some languages lean towards succinct, precise phrasing, others rely on lengthier, wordier statements to get their point across. It’s worth keeping this in mind when you re-adapt your webpage for the new market, as you may have to change the layout or structure of your page completely. In these cases, it’s wise to rely on a native speaker, well-versed in the country’s language and culture, to help you know which information you can leave out when it comes shortening articles if they’re posing an obstacle to good formatting.

Keeping these points in mind is one good way to ensure you’re international, localised marketing campaigns will be well received.


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