Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Product Names of IKEA

To me, they mean nothing; however, it is not the case for Thai people! IKEA opened its first store in Bangkok and it resulted in a linguistic problem 🙂 In Swedish, I guess all the product names have a certain meaning but in other languages, these words might mean very very bad things! We have many examples for this issue. You should remember the Ford Nova case, which is quite popular in marketing classes 🙂 You know the French or Spanish (I Dont quite remember) pronunciation of “Nova” means “No Go” or something like that. So when you give this name to a car, it is not good at all 🙂 The car “should go”. In IKEA case, there is a similar situation which requires further linguistic and marketing research. Let’s see what says about this:

“BANGKOK, June 9 (UPI) — A language squad spent four years vetting IKEA product names before the Swedish furniture giant opened its new Bangkok store last year.

Natthita Opaspipat, a member of the team, told The Wall Street Journal IKEA’s Swedish names “bring a unique character to the brand.” But she said misunderstandings are easy when they are heard by Thai speakers.

“We’ve got to be careful,” Natthita said. “Some of them can be, well, a little rude.”

The Redalen bed, for example, named after a town in Norway, sounds like a Thai term for sexual intercourse. Part of the name of the Jattebra plant pot also sounds like a term for the sex act, a term not used in polite society.

IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, began using children’s names and place names in the Scandinavian countries for his products in the 1950s because he himself was dyslexic. While the company’s sources of names have expanded along with its product line, it is still Scandinavian.

Natthita said the team has tried to keep as close to the original as possible, sometimes only changing a single letter. Team members have to consider both how a word sounds and what it will look like when spelled out in Thai’s cursive alphabet.”

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Advertising Translation, Part#5 – Adaptation

The adaptation approach argues that there are insurmountable cultural barriers which require the complete translation of advertisements to reach the target audience. By employing the adaptation process, MNCs frame their ads with a new culture and language.

The adaptation approach regards the words as the representatives of the culture. The most important part is to understand what lies behind those symbolic words. The use and selection of verbal and visual elements are directly related to culture which is perceived differently from nation to nation. Different perceptions require target culture-oriented ways of conveying an advertising message. Therefore, the road to advertising translation is paved with cultural stereotypes. As the definition suggests, cultural stereotypes are the products of interaction and communication. They are set of accepted behaviors and social norms. For example, in USA, a direct and explicit communication style is dominant. Americans value time and efficiency, and place emphasis on individual achievement. Thus, American ads generally aim to give detailed information about the product and they make use of verbal elements rather than visual. Moreover, such kinds of ads are generally humorous so as to capture the audience individually. On the other hand, in Japan, the communication style is generally indirect and implicit. Such an audience would like to have succinct ads. In their media habits, silences have meaning and put emphasize on symbolism.

Considering these differences, the advertising translator should be aware of the role that cultural stereotypes play.

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Advertising Translation, Part#4 – Standardization

In many cases, producing culture-specific ads or translating already existing ads involves large sums of money and a qualified work force. MNCs that do not want to invest a great deal of money in advertising translation are not in the pursuit of long term profits. Although they try to lower the costs, at the same time, they do not want to lose the attention of target audience. They highlight comprehension rather than internalization. The solution to such kind of approach is “standardization”. The motive behind this approach is that consumers share similar needs according to some cultural, economical, regional and linguistic patterns.

Using these communicational and advertising styles, MNCs try to standardize the ads by modifying the original one. This approach takes advantage of the similarities between cultures. They generally use the original ad print or video after translating the slogans and, in some cases, the brand names. The brand names are often kept in its original form to create a strong image. However, in some cases, keeping the original brand names can be hazardous since the pronunciations of them differ from language to language. For example, in China, the name Coca-Cola was first rendered as ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, it was too late when the coke company discovered what the phrase exactly means: female horse stuffed with wax. After this mistake, Coca-Cola researched 40000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent: ko-kou-ko-le. This phrase can be loosely translated as happiness in the mouth (lingo72). This example shows how the phonetic knowledge and cultural awareness of the translator is important. The advertising campaigns ignoring culture and language can result in serious mistakes.

Translating the slogans, the translator should have a control over the language of target audience. The successful translation or standardization of slogans enhances the memorability and the impact of ad campaign. However, a number of MNCs prefer to keep the original brand name and slogan. For example, Adidas, Nike and Nokia use the same slogans under their brand names ignoring the target audience’s comprehension. On the other hand, L’Oréal standardizes its slogan in every language which is originally “L’Oréal, Parce que vous le valez bien”. It is translated into Turkish and English without any interpretation, which means the standardization approach is employed effectively. Considering the L’Oréal example, it may seem that that approach promotes the global image of the product and brand. Nevertheless, it is not the case for most of other slogans. When the advertising companies take advantage of the sound system to simplify memory recall, it gets harder to standardize the same slogan for each target audience. Examples include “If anyone can, Canon can” and “O2, see what you can do” (t, sf189).In both examples, the standardization approach falls short of having the intended memory recall effect on target audience. When standardized (translated literally like L’Oréal example), the slogans lose their alliterations.

Advertising translation part#1

Advertising translation part#2

Advertising translation part#3

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Advertising Translation Part#3 – Globalization

The global approach assumes that every human being has more or less the same needs, beliefs and aspirations. Rather than cultural barriers, similarities between cultures are highlighted. MNCs favoring this approach take the target audience as homogeneous and use the same advertisement in every country. “With the convergence of national wealth, technology and emerging global media, consumer wants and needs are homogenized” (Ted Levitt, 1983). For example, Nokia has a global approach in Turkish market. The ads of this corporation are generally used unchanged. There is not a sign of translational activity in many of its ads which were shown on Turkish TV channels or in movies. The one titled “Music gets you talking” has a long and loaded text; however, it was shown in movie breaks in English. Although some ads may reach their target when used unchanged, the ads containing linguistic features may fail to convey their messages. Titled “Harmony”, another ad by Nokia conveys its message as planned even if a global approach is employed.

The avoidance of linguistic elements makes this ad comprehensible by Turkish audience. Van Mesdag argues the impractical nature of employing the global approach in marketing and advertising translation:

“However, the number of products allowing for a pure global marketing strategy is very limited, if not non-existing. Since countries differ in culture, language, government regulations, topography, distribution and retail structure, adaptation or standardization of at least some elements of the marketing mix is usually required”

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