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Localization is the process in which a product or a service is so changed that it adapts to the specific international market or an international language or international culture. It is the ability to change itself according to the look and feel which matches the local market.

A successful localized product is one which you cannot tell apart from the local product. It can also be a service. There are many successful localized products and services yet there are some products and services whose essence is completely lost in the process of localization. These products and services have failed at localization and they often end up in the market as jokes. People take these products and services lightly and they are made fun of in the global market.

Language Translation as a Part of Localization

Language translation is a huge part of localization. The two terms—translation and localization are used in multiple contexts and hence, they often get mixed up. People use one term for another, but it is quite important to understand the correct meanings of these two terms.

If a website is undergoing translation, it means that the website’s words, phrases and all the other media are simply getting changed from one language to another. It is a simple process and it does not require much effort.

In localization, however, along with the words and phrases and other text being translated into another language, we try to change the essence of the website so that it looks and feels like a website developed and maintained by the locals and for the locals. Here, the time format, the date format, the measurements etc. are changed so that it matches with the local formats which are regularly used.

Pepsi’s Distress in China

Sometimes, when things get lost in translation, hilarious yet woeful things happen. Pepsi has always been having troubles with the Chinese market because of some translation problems. Their advertisements in the Chinese market have always ended up being funny because of the translation. In the 1950’s, Pepsi’s slogan was “Be Sociable”. In the Chinese market, interestingly, it got translated to “Be Intimate”.

After Pepsi realized this blunder, they changed their campaign to “Now it’s Pepsi for those who think young” but even this got translated as “New Pepsi is for those with the minds of children”. These two slogans have resulted in a rapid fall in the sales. Therefore, Pepsi came up with a new slogan. The slogan was “Come Alive With Pepsi”. This got translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”

The Pepsi Company had to change their slogan again because their sales were continuously falling down. The next advertising slogan they put up was “Come Alive! You’re In The Pepsi Generation”. This got translated as “Resurrect! Your Body Will Be Made Of Pepsi”

The Pepsi Company didn’t overcome the translation problem till date and even today, a local brand dominates the sales of the cola drinks in China.

Few Other Blunders Caused During Translation

  • MTN Uganda: MTN Uganda, which is the largest telecom company in Uganda, has also had problems with translation. They put up a huge billboard in Soroti town which said “Send Money And Win” with wrong spellings in Ateso. However, they apologized for the mistake and promptly got the billboard down.
  • Mc Donalds: When Big Mac was introduced in France as “Gros Mec”, it got translated as “Big Pimp”.
  • Frank Perdue’s: In the Spanish market, Frank Perdue’s “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” got translated to “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.
  • Schweppes: Another company called Schweppes had to incur a huge drop in their sales because their “tonic water” got translated as “toilet water”.
  • KFC: Even KFC had a blunder in translation. The “finger-lickin’ good” chicken got translated in Chinese as “Eat your fingers off”.
  • Parker Pens: To the Spanish people, instead of letting them know that parker pens wouldn’t cause pocket ink stains, they let them know that the pens wouldn’t impregnate them.
  • Coca Cola: In the 1920’s, when Coca Cola was introduced in China, their slogan was literally translated to “bite the wax tadpole!”

Hopefully, the companies of today will consider localization done by professional translation companies as well when getting their services or products translated so that they could avoid some silly blunders and have an increment in their sales!

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