If the Information Age has underlined one thing for businesses, it’s this: You want your bottom line to grow steadily, and not suffer at every whim of the market. Such whims have been frequent in recent years, as mobile, the cloud, social media and data analytics have gained traction. Now another shift is about to happen, and its name is the experience web.
Language is more than just a description of things in the world. It speaks to the culture that creates it. Now that our global culture is becoming increasingly digitized, not least with the addition of the Apple Watch and drone delivery, language is going to take on new meaning. The barriers to comprehension will be lower than ever, but the obstacles to effectively marketing your global business will rise.
You wouldn’t send one sales guy to conquer an entire country’s market. You wouldn’t have a single person doing all the marketing and advertising for a 40,000-customer company.
Why is it then that translation and localization still stand as isolated to-do items, when they should be integrated into every facet of the content supply chain? Companies tend to think that they only have to translate pieces of a website, or instruction manuals. That’s a relic of the desktop era. In today’s mobile world, trying to translate selectively will only sell your product or service short.
Making mistakes in business is natural. Sometimes those mistakes benefit your overall success. Hire the wrong iPhone developer, and you’ll learn what to look for in the next one. Cancel your work from home policy, and you might get faster collaboration, the way Marissa Mayer wanted.
If you take your product global with the wrong color scheme, image or translations, however, your target audience might be shaken for years. Rumor has it that the Pepsi slogan “Come Alive With Pepsi!” translated to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Dead” in Taiwan. KFC’s “finger licking good” became “eat your fingers off” in Chinese. In another faux pas, one Beijing Starbucks had to close after setting up shop in Beijing’s sacred and historic Forbidden City — considered a cultural affront.