How A Famous Ad’s Localization Error Marginalized a Target Demographic
by Weis Words staff
In the late 1990s, a new ad campaign swept through the United States. You couldn't turn on a television or flip through a magazine without being asked, "Got Milk?"
The "Got Milk?" campaign taught millions of people that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton....and that you better have a full glass of milk next to you if you're eating cookies and listening to the radio.
"Got Milk?" is one of the most famous commodity brands and influential campaigns in advertising history. It has been the subject of textbooks and the feature of countless case studies.
But a major localization misstep nearly derailed the campaign for a major segment of the market.
The ads were created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco; they translated the ads into Spanish for the growing Latino market. Their translation was simple and accurate.
There was only one problem: "Got milk?" doesn't translate well into Spanish. It comes out, "Are you lactating?" Needless to say, sales did not skyrocket.
Worse yet, the concept of running out of milk was downright offensive to many Latina mothers, a "joke" that hit a little too close to home.
Business translation services aren't just about moving the words from one language to another; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ translator did just that. Translation services are about understanding nuance, appreciating the art. Your business documents are important, and they should be handled with the utmost care and attention to detail.
Don't let a silly faux-paus set you back, a cultural difference that could have been avoided. Your business is too important to leave to amateurs. Good translation services, like Weis-Words, include localization as one of their benefits. They don't robotically translate words; they artfully and delicately transfer ideas and concepts to a second language.
Anyone who is bilingual can tell you how to say something in a second language. Any translation software can translate a word, phrase, or even document. But only the experts can guarantee a seamless stream of thoughts and clarity. If you wouldn't trust an amateur to write it, don't trust an amateur to translate it.
And let the mistakes of “Got Milk?” serve as reminders that even the most polished of campaigns are susceptible to costly localization errors when left to minor leaguers. For your business needs, you’re much better off in the hands of professionals.