JOYS AND SORROWS OF LOCALIZATION
by Federica Fugazzotto
On several occasion we have flagged the importance of doing in-depth research and ask professionals before exporting your brand or products abroad. Making a false move is much easier than you think and can happen even to the best. Let's see some examples.
We are in the early 1980s and Apple is about to launch its famous home computer, Apple II, on the European market. For the occasion, some changes have been made to the hardware and power system, and Apple II Europlus looks set to replicate in Europe the great success achieved in the United States. But something goes wrong and only a few units are sold. What happened? The answer is simple: despite all arrangements, Apple neglected a fundamental aspect, they forgot to change the keyboard. The lack of accents, umlauts and other special symbols used in European languages cost the Californian company a nice slice of the market.
This time we talk about a dodged bullet.
"Got milk?" is the famous slogan of an advertising campaign born in 1993 and requested by the California Milk Processor Board to encourage the consumption of milk,that was drastically declining. The campaign had proven a success and over the years many celebrities joined the cause and have been captured with "milk moustache".
However, the problem arose when launching the campaign in Mexico. At first the "Got Milk?” the slogan was adapted to an expression that, once translated, meant something like "Are you lactating?". Very unfortunate. Luckily enough, someone made some market research and blocked the slogan before it landed in Mexico.
One of the most consumed drinks from Starbucks customers has always been a variant of the Italian caffè latte, simply called "Latte". When Starbucks landed in Germany, they continued to serve Latte without changing its name. A somewhat risky choice since the word "Latte" in German means "plank" and is also used in slang to indicate male erection. There's been plenty of jokes and laughter but Starbucks has overcome this false step without too much trauma since the Germans have nonetheless become large consumers of the iconic beverage.
We cannot help mentioning this story. However, we have to admit that the episode has never been denied nor confirmed by Pepsi and it could be a urban legend. In the 1960s, Pepsi launches the famous slogan "Come Alive! You're In The Pepsi Generation" which means "Live! You're part of the Pepsi generation". Well, legend has it, at its debut on the Chinese market the slogan was translated as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave".
We wonder if sooner or later Pepsi will unveil the mystery and tell us if this story is true or false.
Federica Fugazzotto - Editorial translator from English into Italian and full-time nerd. She loves stories more than anything else on Earth but does not mind a glass of good red wine.
"A different language is a different vision of life." Federico Fellini