Written by Yuyin Wang
“Bite the wax tadpole”, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”, “Eat off your fingers!” Where do these slogans come from? They don’t sound very attractive to me at all, but they are actually very popular brands that we see every day. They are Coca Cola, Pepsi, and KFC. This is a common mistake when the company just easily translates the slogans into other language without thinking about if it really makes sense to the people growing up with another culture background.
Translating a brand into another language and be accepted by foreign consumers can be difficult and challenging because of the culture and language barriers. Literal translation is not enough to show what an ad’s true meaning. The wrong name, the wrong meaning will hurt the company selling their products. The translations mentioned above are the examples. KFC’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan becomes “eat off your fingers”. Who would want to buy that? I think the customers know that is not what it really means, however, because it sounds weird, it is natural for people to avoid the brand. Therefore, the companies value more about the deep meaning in the slogan when they enter the markets in foreign countries. Companies make their commercial more acceptable and understandable for local people. Also, they add more cultural element in it, and it becomes more joyful for people to watch.
This is the Pepsi’s commercial for the Chinese New Year. All the people in there are Chinese celebrities and famous actors. It also brings in very common factors, like the train station, the snowing night, the food, the house, the decoration in the house, and the touching story that happens almost every year. Showing this commercial during those special days would be understandable and unforgettable for Chinese people.
This is Coca Cola’s commercial, instead of using celebrities, there are only normal people’s faces showed up, but it feels like more close to the everyone’s daily life. It is like seeing the reflection of themselves.
Here is some links talking the stories of international name translation. It seems like, every company when they decide to entry a market into new country, they always struggle with translation first. Especially for the automobile companies, there is always misunderstanding about the names. For instance, Lexus is a luxury vehicle brand, but when the first time it entry into Chinese market, its name was LingZhi. Somehow, this name didn’t sound like a nice car. It made people feel like it was a cheap, low quality car. So the company changed the name eventually.
Bite the Wax Tadpole http://www.getcustoms.com/2004XE/Articles/iw1298.html
Name translation http://www.ccjk.com/name-translation/
Coca-Cola Conversations http://www.coca-colaconversations.com/2008/03/bite-the-wax-ta.html
It feels like the translation would be a standard to measure if those companies will be successful in other countries.
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