Post #5: Lost In Translation

One great thing about being the one bilingual Hispanic at almost every job I’ve worked at is that I’m able to to bridge the gap between businesses and Spanish speakers by talking to them in the language they more than likely grew up speaking. I’ve witnessed first hand how creating this experience for the customer can in turn create a long-lasting a trustworthy relationship between them and the business.

Although this is just at the micro level, it can absolutely be recreated at the macro level for companies to create marketing campaigns that resonate with this market segment effectively. A number of companies have attempted to create this experience for customers and have succeeded, but there are also those that have failed miserably.

Why? My guess is they didn’t put much thought into it, they thought they could easily go onto Google Translate  type in their cool slogan or punch line and BOOM! There you have it we’ve got our Spanish targeted ad!

Please take a moment to realize this is NOT one of those instances where Ignorance Is Bliss. Making this mistake has huge repercussions in the long run leading to a highly ineffective campaign at the very least and in the worst cases leading to insult. let’s just take a look at two of my personal Hall Of Famers who didn’t think of seeking out a  consultant and likely went with Google Translate instead:

  1. Vi La Papa: One of my personal favorites, I actually bought this shirt for my mom as a joke and she hated me for it. An American t-shirt company based in Miami who sought to capitalize on the Popes visit unwittingly translated a shirt they printed for the Hispanic market that was supposed to say “I Saw The Pope” into “I Saw The Potato”.
  2. El Matador: As proof that even the name itself can ruin a products chances if the proper research is taken. The AMC Matador, a mid-sized car produced by the American Motors Corporation with a name that was supposed to express strength and courage. The name which translates to “killer”in Spanish never lifted off for this market, as many potential buyers were reluctant to using the car because of its name.

I’ve emphasized plenty of times in previous posts how detrimental it is for companies to carefully reevaluate their campaigns if they are to ever make in impact in the Hispanic market. If they value creating relationships with the Hispanic consumer domestically and globally embracing cultural sensitivity is a MUST. I suggest investing all available time and resources to learn about cultural characteristics and values that help create trust for a brand and ultimately lead to a committed and long-term relationship between business and consumer. DON’T be one of those businesses that become lost in translation.



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