When Ford wanted to export and market the Pinto in Brazil, they unfortunately failed to market test the model name. In America, a pinto is a type of horse, but in Brazil ‘pinto’ is slang for male reproductive parts. As you can imagine, the car did not sell well, forcing Ford to rebrand it to Corcel, which means horse in Brazil.
Smart clients test their brand names and taglines BEFORE exporting to make sure they work across languages and cultures. For some examples, read our blog about bad brand name translations.
Here are three examples of clients that we’ve worked with to make sure their words will work in their target markets.
The First Years
The First Years (owned by TOMY) sells a successful product line in the US called “Take & Toss”. The line of plastic cups, bowls, plates, forks and spoons are wildly successful in the American market for their usability and flexibility. The products are strong enough to last, and inexpensive enough that if you lose them or toss them, it’s no great loss. Busy parents and caregivers have the option to wash or throw them away as they choose. Culturally, this works in the US.
When The First Years launched this product in Europe, sales stunk. Europeans want clarity on whether something is disposable or reusable. The First Years quickly noticed the problem and came up with a new name, SÄVA. They asked us to test the name across multiple languages to make sure there were no issues. We developed a questionnaire, identified marketing translation experts to survey, conducted the survey and delivered the results to the project manager. With a successful naming campaign and appropriate testing of the name, the product re-launched successfully in the European market. Read about other marketing translation considerations.
After the tremendously successful tagline “That was Easy”, STAPLES decided that after 10 years, it was time to update its marketing campaign. In 2014 The marketing team came up with a phrase adaptable for multiple messages. The message, “Make More Happen” is the base phrase and the “more” can be switched out for different messages. For example, one of the phrases they came up with was “Make Refrigerator Art Happen”.
The tagline is creative, flexible and has a great message. But some of the messages don’t work across languages and cultures. In the US, we know that “Refrigerator Art” are those fantastic pictures our kids create that we want to showcase. We hang them on our fridge with a magnet so everyone can see. Our translator pointed out that in France, a fridge is strictly an appliance used for keeping your food cold. It’s not a place to hang art. In the process of translating taglines, our professional translators understand the source language meaning and the culture, and they communicate back any messages that won’t work. Then with the client, the language team can create a more appropriate message for the target audience.
Read about Staples promise to its customers to help Make More Happen.
A local hospital created the tagline “It’s all about getting better”. A perfect sentiment for a hospital – patients getting better and the hospital providing better services. Since the hospital serviced many Haitian Creole speakers, they asked us to translate the tag line for use in the Haitian Creole marketing materials. The translator wrote the tagline about the patients getting better. The editor suggested that it meant the hospital focused on continuous improvement. In English, the line could have both meanings; in Haitian Creole, the grammar didn’t work. The statement needed one subject.
We explained the issue to the client who could then make the decision on which message they wanted to convey so we could translate the tagline accurately.
A good language team will always bring these types of questions back to you, so you can make an educated decision on how to handle differences in language and cultures before disaster strikes. Rapport International has the skills and experience to assist you with brand name and tagline testing. Contact us with questions, or for a free consultation, we are happy to guide you into your new markets and help your product succeed.