The language pitfalls associated with product branding
Advertising has become such a vital part of society and as any Marketing guru will tell you, particularly in today’s increasingly ‘consumer driven’ society, advertising is a whole new language to learn and you have to get it just so in order to secure a return on your investments.
How does a company make itself or its product known to consumers? A suitably eye-catching billboard placed in just the right location along a popular commuting route; snappy, memorable (often for all the wrong reasons) television adverts; glossy, full-page pictures of a product in a relevant magazine? All of these and many more, not forgetting the numerous pop-ups, spam emails and social media flaunting that the revolution of internet technology has brought with it, are the ways in which you can be sure of reaching your target audience these days. Lamguage puns and witty remarks make an advert stick in a person’s mind but what about when the branding does not fit in with the culture to which it is being promoted? A tiny error in branding judgement can have terrible consequences for a marketing campaign, as many companies have found out to their detriment.
It seems with the amount of portals available to a business, through which drawing in customers should be a doddle, but unfortunately, as ever, it is not just about quantity but rather quality is of major importance when considering how best to promote a new product or venture. As Adam Roberts discussed in his leader on the debate over naming the 2010s: businesses know all too well that if you “slip up with branding, giggling consumers are unlikely to part with their money, however attractive your latest product might otherwise be. Pity carmakers, for example, who are compelled to dream up new names for their many models. The Dodge Swinger (launched in 1969) surely appealed only to a few broad-minded buyers. Spanish speakers were never keen on Mazda’s Laputa (“the whore” on wheels).”
It is so easy to make a mistake with language when it comes to branding. Cultural awareness is a pivotal part of any marketing campaign. How can a business expect to thrive abroad if the name of the product or even the company reminds native speakers of an entirely different product or has negative connotations in the language? Copy written for company websites; POS for retail; advertising campaign materials, all are considered so important when they are initially drafted up. Time and effort is spent pouring over the same documents through late nights and hectic business meetings, all to ensure that the consumer will see something they like and want to investigate it further. Yet, when it comes to expanding into foreign markets, whether for the first time or repeatedly, companies make the mistake of not ensuring they thoroughly research the branding ideas. This is when it is important to look to language and culture professionals to ensure the right choices are made.
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