Brands, language and culture


22 February, 2016

Branding and translation

You have probably read a lot about blunders from big brands entering new markets, such as Coca-Cola in China or Ikea’s catalogue in Thailand.

This is a common error among companies due to lack of knowledge of the language and culture of their target markets. Therefore, the solution is simple: hire native translators. Not only will they advise you on the language but, as potential users of your products or services, will be able to let you know how they feel when they read that brand name.

However, not only does this happen in translation, but also in the company’s native language. Cultural connotation, spelling mistakes that change the meaning of a word or wordplays that have a different meaning to the creator and the reader can have an effect over your brand.

At Jensen Localization we asked our staff to pick up some examples about curious brand names, either because they have a different connotation in another language or because they can cause confusion. We also asked them to send us examples of good name choices. See below some of their findings:

In the Italian city of Pordenone, our colleague Javier used to live just above this bakery. The brand, very popular in Italy, would be very popular in Spain, but probably for other reasons, and not for the quality of their baguettes. Or maybe yes? Follador in Spanish means, to say it politely, a man being very sexually active :).


In Turkey, Helia came across this brand name in a restaurant. Aciktim means ‘I am hungry’ in Turkish, so it is indeed a very creative brand name that we think is worth mentioning.


In Spain, I myself found a funny brand name. Supercaro literally means ‘super expensive’. Isn’t it paradoxical that a low cost super market has a name meaning that it is super expensive? The most reasonable explanation for this name is that the owner of the supermarket is called Carolina (Caroline). Carol or Caro, as in this example, is a very commonly used abbreviation for this name in Spanish. Therefore, the intention of this brand name is to mean ‘Carol’s supermarket’, instead of ‘a very expensive supermarket’. This is a creative brand name full of meaning to the owner of this supermarket, but it may cause confusion among people not used to this name.

Language and culture go hand in hand in all fields, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about marketing or technical texts. Something that is completely neutral in our culture can have enormous effects in other languages and cultures. Sometimes these effects are funny and incidental, but in other cases they can affect your company branding and even offend your target market, leading to a complete failure on your international strategy.

At Jensen Localization we take into account these things very seriously, and we will always let you know if your source text can have any cultural connotation that needs to be addressed during translation. Do not hesitate to contact us for further information.


Culture, Foreign Trade, International Business, International Marketing, Jensen Localization, Localization

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