Linguistics Matter: How your trademark translates may define your global brand success

Unique and authentic. Relevant but differentiating. Engaging.  These are just a few attributes brand owners typically strive for when developing new product, service or company names.

What can be easily forgotten, but is equally important, is that your name should also “work” across borders – in foreign languages, countries, and cultures. There are countless examples of accepted names in the domestic market, but when translated into a foreign language, they have the strangest, most curious, and all too often, unintentionally offensive meanings.

Global Translation Blunders
While the following translation mistakes may cause you to chuckle, they resulted in misery and significant expense for their brand owners.

A luxury car maker entered the Chinese market with the brand name “Bensi,” which translated into “rush to die.” 1

A large airline company’s slogan touting its lovely upholstered seats, “Fly in Leather,” translated into “Fly Naked” in Spanish.2

An Iranian consumer goods company marketed its laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow.” Translated, it results into “Barf Soap.”3

Avoid A Translation Misfire And Its Costly Repercussions
An innocent translation mistake may not only be embarrassing, but it can also cause lasting damage to your brand. Even a small gaffe could have a significant negative impact on your business and bottom line.

Weigh The Real Cost
What does it cost to rebrand a company or product? According to IGNYTE, a San Diego, California branding leader, “While rebranding can cost millions of dollars and span across multiple years, most companies can expect to invest $50,000 to $150,000 and four to eight months to transform their brand.” IGNYTE also says that a brand overhaul for an established global enterprise could cost between $120,000 to $250,000.

To avoid image damaging publicity in specific markets or unnecessary costs by name change, campaign termination, recall actions or adjustments, we recommend you check each name before its used by your organization. Savvy brand owners – and the attorneys that represent them – reduce risk from the get-go by checking names and their translated meanings as a part of an initial trademark search.

However, if you are not a linguistics expert or native speaker of the target country or region, how can you be sure to avoid a misstep leading to negative publicity, loss of revenue, and an expensive name change?

Introducing CompuMark’s Linguistic Search
Find out if the name of your website, service, company or new product inadvertently translates into something confusing or with an unintended meaning with Linguistic Search. Our native-speaking experts analyze your mark for cultural meanings, associations, phonetics, and suitability. Then, an assessment is made based on a mathematical scale, followed by a personal expert opinion. Linguistic Search is offered in more than 40 languages and countries. At a low rate, you can protect your future global revenue potential and perform a linguistic search before you invest in a mark.  Linguistic Search is the perfect complement to CompuMark’s Full Search.

Why Can’t I Rely On Free Search Tools Like Google?
Thumbing through a foreign language dictionary or using Google Translate is not a viable substitute for an expert native speaker. Dictionary searches are highly inefficient and time-consuming. Although Google can “translate” very quickly, it offers no assurance that the translation considers spelling variation, social constructs, or hidden meaning. Moreover, while Google can handle over 100 languages, its deep-learning incarnation works suitably for only nine languages whereas a Linguistic Search offers over 40.

Build Your Global Brand And Business With Linguistic Search
If you are at any point planning to market or sell your products outside your borders, it makes good business sense to engage an expert native language speaker, knowledgeable about cultural meaning and social constructs, to perform a linguistic search of your proposed name or term.

Find out more about CompuMark’s Linguistic Search.

*1, 2, 3  – “The 20 Worst Brand Translation of All Times.” Inc., October 29, 2014