Why does internationalisation need localization 🌎 What is it and what is it used for?

In the run-up to Christmas in 2003, a Toyota advertising campaign, aimed at launching two new models on the Chinese market, came close to causing an international conflict. The advertisement printed in newspapers and magazines showed traditional Chinese lions saluting the Prado X SUV as it passed. The image incited a wave of protests against what was interpreted as a terrible lack of respect towards a country that had been invaded by Japanese troops in 1937. In order to put an end to the incident, the top management of Toyota had to publicly apologise for the “humiliating” advertisement and remove it from the 30 media outlets that it was going to be published in.

Marketing classes normally refer to other infamous cases of slip-ups, such as that of Brainiff Airlines, which invited its passengers to “Fly in leather” (the literal Spanish translation “Volar en cuero” means “Fly naked”), or the Chevrolet model Chevy Nova, which had to be renamed on the Hispanic market with the name Chevy Caribe. Even more complicated was the case of Vicks, when launching its VapoRub product in Germany, it failed to consider the fact that Germans pronounce the V as if it is an F, which turned the brand name into an insult that could be represented graphically with the middle finger.

In our post about the translation of multilingual websites we have already talked about the importance of rigorous and flexible translations of the international versions of your websites. The adaptation of texts forms part of localisation work which consists of an exhaustive analysis of the product, and all that it entails from a linguistic, sociocultural and legal-political perspective. The person or team that carries out this type of work not only needs to have a good command of language of the destination country, they must also have extensive knowledge about its history, culture and politics, and know its street slang and folklore. The association with a word, name, surname, joke or an unpleasant case can determine the image of your campaign and prevent it from attaining its objectives. On the other hand, good advice about the choice of words, images or ideas can help you win over the hearts of potential consumers.

A professional localisation service encompasses the analysis of the advertising campaign and all the texts intended to circulate on the foreign market (interface, catalogues, instructions), the adaptation to search engines (selection of key words) and in-depth checking of forms, warning messages, etc. The specialists in charge of carrying out these tasks not only consider the particularities of each language or country, they also consider regional difference. This can be of great importance in areas as diverse as South America, China, India and Canada.

In an internationalization process you can never be careful enough and any carelessness could result in losses or even lead to failure. As the producers of the best Parker pen noted “”Won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Unfortunately, their localization service for the Mexican market let them down. A pen that was never meant to leave them in embarrassing situations caused serious problems with the badly translated slogan in Spanish: “No goteará en tu bolsillo ni te embarazará”. The translation reads, “Won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.