Lost in Translation, Languages Barriers

Language barriers can be a massive issue with global marketing as one word may mean a good thing in English, but translated to another language, and you’ve just upset half a country. A language barrier is basically ‘barrier to communication resulting from speaking different languages’ (Dictionary, 2013) which leads to a lost in translation. There are many examples of this happening to multiple companies, one of them would be General Motors when they introduced the Vauxhall Nova to Spain. However, they didn’t expect that Nova translates to ‘No go / it won’t go’ (Hollensen, 2004) which isn’t the greatest start to selling a car, they later renamed it and it finally lifted off. Another lost in translation episode was with Parker Pens, the slogan; Avoid Embarrassment – use Parker Pens, ‘They thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass.’ (Suggett, 2013) However it didn’t and it translated to ‘Avoid Pregnancy – Use Parker Pens’.

All of these mistakes could of been avoided through a lot of research and planning, but sometimes it just gets over looked. Here’s a final example of Coca Cola when it first marketed in the 1920s in China, after trying to group some Chinese letters together in order to form a word sounding like Coca Cola, it went wrong, and sounded more like ‘bite the wax tadpole’,(Kotler et al. 2009) which doesn’t sound much like a refreshing beverage. After searching through 40,000 Mandarin letters and words, eventually they managed to get it to sound like, ‘to allow the mouth to be able to rejoice.’, which of course lead to a rise in sales.


Dictionary. 2006, Language Barrier, [online] [viewed 24/01/2013] Available from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/language+barrier

Dialaphone. 2011, Lost in Translation. [online] [viewed 24/01/2013] Available from: http://www.dialaphone.co.uk/blog/2011/10/15/lost-in-translation-advertising-translation-fails/

Kotler, P. Armstrong, G. 2009. Principles of Marketing. [online] [viewed 24/01/2013] Available from: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZW2u5LOmbs4C&pg=PA597&lpg=PA597&dq=language+barrier+coca+cola+examples&source=bl&ots=BX-ou9Zfpj&sig=4pgH6D5tJpHS_hlbpNiUXp6Isio&hl=en&sa=X&ei=W3sBUafZOKHL0QXwqIGQDQ&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Funnypart, 2013, [online] [24/01/2013] Available from: http://www.funnypart.com/funny/lost-in-translation.shtml


Coca Cola; Culture Norms, Taboos and Sexuality

Culture is defined as, by Rice (1933) ‘The values, attitudes, beliefs, ideas, artifacts and other meaningful symbols represented in the pattern of life adopted by people that help them interpret, evaluate and communicate as members of society.’
Marketers need to be aware that their products will have to fit in with the culture of their target markets, else it will not succeed but rather insult the target audience. A key way of avoiding this is by doing the research on a cultures taboos. A taboo is an unacceptable action or item, forbidden, banned, not allowed, this can be certain language being used on TV, or particular clothes being worn in specific places. Coca Cola would have to focus on taboos around the world where it sells it’s products, for example, their advertisement may be accepted in some countries, but offensive in others. With some of Coca Colas advertisement, they used pin up girls in America however in other countries such as Saudi Arabia this would be deemed unacceptable and offensive to their culture. The taboo they have is that woman should be covered up at all times, as a pin up girl may be in a bathing suit, or revealing skin it would be unacceptable.

Sexuality should also be a point that marketers take into account due to the fact that it is a strong issue with everyone and can be easily misinterpreted. Different cultures have different gender roles which organisations, in this case, Coca Cola should recognise and use this to their advantage. A couple of years ago an advert with the wife doing the dishes and the man sitting watching TV all happy with Coca Cola would be acceptable, today that would be gender discrimination. Coca cola now focus on having a good time with both genders in their adverts and have also ‘set aggressive goals to help accelerate the recruitment, development, advancement and retention of women leaders.’ (EuropeanPWN, 2013)


Rice, C. 1993, Consumer Behaviour: Behavioural Aspects of Marketing, Butterworth: Heinemann.

European PWN, 2013, How Coca-Cola is Dealing With Gender Equality [online] [viewed on: 24/01/2013] Available from: http://www.europeanpwn.net/index.php?article_id=814

Coca Cola A. [online] [viewed: 24/01/2013] Available from: http://littleleon.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/aishwarya-rai-coca-cola-ad-aishwarya-rai-3141848-1024-7681.jpg

Coca Cola; Standardisation and Localisation Strategies.

Coca Cola was a huge success in the US and by the 1900s it had expanded into 8 other countries and counting. Today, it is enjoyed in over 200 countries worldwide. (Coca-Cola Company, Heritage Timeline, 2011). There are two strategies that they could have used to help them do this, Standardised and Localised strategies.

Standardised strategy involves the product and the price being made at a set level across the whole organisation across the world.

This begins by ‘minimizing the differences in your products, you are able to rapidly increase production, streamline distribution, decrease raw material costs and reinforce product branding.’ (Acevdeo, 2012).

By making the product the same across all markets the cost can be decreased, with the economies of scale being put to use, (Buying in bulk will reduce the overall cost) and the same format being laid throughout the organisation will help efficiency. The price for the product will also be at the same standard ‘fixed world price’ and applying it to all markets, taking into account exchange rates and variations in laws and regulations. (Hollensen, 2004) This would work for Coca Cola as it would allow the product to be made efficiently with low cost, low risk and the product being the same everywhere. This provides an opportunity for a rapid introduction of any new products in international markets. (Hollensen, 2004).

Whereas, with a localised strategy it’s another matter; ‘Localising a product or service is the process of adapting them to a particular language, culture, and desired local “look-and-feel.”‘ (Rouse, 2005). For Coca Cola this will be done through a number of actions, first and foremost would be changing their method of advertising as that is their most powerful tool. Advertisement would be changed to suit each individual culture, although it is kept near enough the same structure certain aspects would be changed, for instance in India the use of celebrities would be used more than in Africa whereby football is the bigger love of the people. This would allow Coca Cola to maximise profits as it’s focusing on each market, however it cost time and may create more difficulties.



Acevedo, L. 2012. Product Standardisation Strategy. [online] [viewed 23/01/2013] Available from: http://www.ehow.com/way_5379387_product-standardization-strategy.html

Coca Cola, 2011. The Coca Cola Company Heritage Timeline [online] [viewed 23/01/2013] Available from: http://heritage.coca-cola.com/

Holllensen. S, 2004. Global Marketing a decision-oriented approach, 3rd ed. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.

Rouse, M. 2005. Localisation [online] [viewed 23/01/2013] Available from: http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/localization

2dives, 2013. Coca Cola vintage posters. [online] [viewed 24/01/2013] Available from: http://2dives.com/wp-content/gallery/7coca_cola_vintage_posters/coca_cola_vintage_posters-0003.jpg