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Humiliating Examples When Localization Goes Wrong


3 min read

Written by


Argos Multilingual

Published on

29 Apr 2019

We are in the middle of the globalization age. It is impossible to stay inside your borders and hope to improve your business. To succeed, it is almost necessary that your company enter new markets. At this step, it is really easy to overlook the importance of localization. We are aware that localization is as important as translation because content that is not localized properly is most likely to fail in new markets. Sometimes it is easy to avoid these mistakes by changing your slogan or simply the product packaging. However, history shows us a lot of examples where massive corporations overlooked localization and found themselves in a humiliating situation.

When P&G decided to enter the Japanese market with their diaper brand, Pampers, on their packaging they used a photo of a stork delivering a baby. For most of the world, this is a well-known story, but their mistake was assuming it is global. In Japan, the story is of giant flying peaches delivering babies, which caused some confusion amongst Japanese consumers.

On the other hand, Gerber’s mistake was a little more serious than this. When they decided to enter the African market with their line of baby food, they used an image of a baby on their packaging. For most of us this seems quite normal, however in areas where most customers cannot read, the images on packaging is used to describe the contents of the food.

A well-known slogan mistake is from Pepsi. When their “Brings you back to life” slogan was translated into Chinese, it was translated as “Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”. A bold promise that we think is almost close to impossible…

You might think that these kinds of mistakes are only made when entering a culturally different market, but it is not true. Ford, for example translated their “Every car has a high-quality body” to “Every car has a high-quality corpse” when advertising in Belgium.

One of the most successful advertising campaigns in history was ‘got milk’. From 1993 for more than 20 years, the campaign was used to increase milk consumption. But when the campaign was launched in Mexico, it was translated as “Are you lactating?”

Here, you can find our blog post on the Top 5 Tips for a Successful Global Marketing Strategy. If you already decided to sell in other markets and don’t know where to start, Contact Us Now!

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