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Can a translation error hurt your brand image?

brand error

Translation and branding are both essential tools for all brands that intend to expand their business to other countries. These are complementary concepts, each supporting the other and to which many brands do not give enough importance, giving way to the feared reputational crisis.

How often have we seen cases online in which brands make mistakes when translating the name of their products or even their own brand name? You are sure to remember some cases. Here are some examples:

Zara

The main company in the Inditex Group, Zara, made a mistake when translating one of its products intended for the German market. The name given to a brand of sandals was badly translated as “Sklavensandalen” (slaves). Why did this mistake go viral on social networks? Because the Anglo-Saxon term “slave” has a different meaning in German and sounded offensive to Germans, as it's associated with slavery.

Zara Sandal

The response from Zara was immediate; the company withdrew the product from its website and also published an apology.

Gerber

Gerber, a U.S. brand of baby food belonging to the multinational group Nestlé, launched an internationalisation process without taking into consideration the importance of the translation of the brand name, and the result was a sharp decrease in sales.

Gerber means “vomit” in French, and understandably the brand did not meet its sales targets in France.

General Motors

General Motors, the US designer and manufacturer of automobiles and vehicle parts decided to expand its business into the South American market.

The brand launched a new model of car called "Chevy Nova” without realising the meaning of “no va” in Spanish. After noticing that the sales of its new model were not going as well as expected and learning the reason why it wasn't selling, the company changed the name to "Caribe" in Spanish speaking markets.

These examples show how marketing is closely connected to culture, and culture is language. In order to ensure a successful launch of your product onto the international market, a prestigious and professional translation service is highly recommended.

Do you know any more examples of badly translated brands or products?