Just Don’t Do It: The Art of Slogan Translation

Nike tried, in vain, to translate “Just Do It” for other languages and cultures. In the end, it left the slogan as is.

Brand Channel has a good article on the many challenges of translating slogans. Says globalization consultant Bert Esselink, “I think the phrase ‘translating advertising slogans’ is not really appropriate,” he says. “These types of slogans are hardly ever translated literally and if they are, they are ‘converted’ to another language. It’s usually a very creative process that consists of finding an equivalent expression in the target language that conveys a similar message to the original.”

I believe that slogans have, for most companies, become a waste of time and resources. Does “I’m loving it” really make much of a difference to McDonald’s bottom line? Would a better menu or cleaner restaurants make more of a difference?

And what slogan does Starbucks use? Or Costco? Or Google? It seems to me that the next generation of global businesses don’t need pithy little lines to be remembered. And perhaps this is more a reflection of how consumers have simply grown savvier, busier, or less easily persuaded by traditional marketing methods. Either way, fewer slogans mean fewer obstacles to taking a brand global.

PS: The article also touches on keyword localization, which is VERY important, as it helps companies optimize their Web sites for search engines — and for knowing which keywords to purchase for advertising campaigns.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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