The benefits of recruiting multilingual employees are immense. They can provide in-house language support, foster a more diverse and innovative organization, help cater to a broader audience, help with customer retention, and support international growth.
Most importantly they can provide contextualized information about people and places you are unfamiliar with. Context is so important in languages and situations and if you’re not fluent it’s best to talk with someone who’s a native level speaker before making any big marketing decisions or you could end up like some of these companies.
Electrolux was a Scandinavian vacuum company who wanted to expand into America. They used the slogan ‘Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux’. Technically the phrase is correct but culturally it means the product is awful. This could have been avoided if a native speaker had been consulted prior to launching the campaign. Electrolux’s stance is that the double entendre was intentional. What do you think?
Parker Pens wanted to expand their customer base to Spanish consumers but its slogan ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you’ was translated to ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant’. The word embarrass is what is called a false friend when it comes to linguistic translations. The Spanish word ‘embarazar’ sounds similar to the English one ‘embarrass’ but it really means to put one in the oven… It pays to be extra careful with slang!
Up to now we’ve talked about how language slip ups have caused issues for brands but what else can go wrong when you don’t get a native’s help? Take Gerber for instance. When Gerber first entered the African market, they placed a cute baby on the front of their products. Unbeknownst to them, it was common practice in some African countries for the product to have a picture of what’s inside ON the label. You can imagine the horror.
Procter & Gamble took an advert that had great success in the European market and remade it for Japan. The ad depicted a woman taking a bath and her husband entering the room and giving her a massage. For the Japanese, this type of advert was seen as an invasion of privacy, inappropriate, and in poor taste. An innocent mistake tanked their image in an entire country.
The benefit of recruiting multilingual employees when looking to expand into a new market far outweighs the potential costs. Any one of these businesses could have avoided these errors if only they asked someone who knows the language and culture before they launched a campaign.
If you’re looking for multilingual applicants in any of the industries we work with, we can help you source the talent you require.