Monday, May 12, 2008

Whats in a name?

Translation faux pas in marketing are legendary...and as new products continue to enter this globalized world it’s not uncommon to hear of brands running into such quandaries

The latest to join the list is the Microsoft mp3 player Zune. Launched to compete against the IPOD, Zune found itself in a linguistic pickle when launching in Canada. Turns out Zune sounds like a French-Canadian term ‘zoune’ used as a euphemism for penis or vagina."

Interestingly, the naming firm responsible for Zune, which uses 80 linguistics in 39 countries to catch such double entendres, claims that they were well aware of this likely translation as was Microsoft and this was a deliberated decision which took into account the possible impact. In this case, the likely translation was a not very popular French Canadian slang, and so Microsoft didn’t expect it was cause much more than a few giggles and at the most of couple of articles/posts in the media/blog universe— A calculated move that seems to have paid off for Zune and Microsoft.

I don’t envy such a conundrum though – considering there are around 6700 languages in the world, never mind the dialects and slangs. So as a marketer, when looking into possible translation trouble, don’t go in thinking you will be able avoid it all. What is more important is that you identify potential issues, analyze the scope and possible impact…and then decide whether or not to proceed.

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