Why do businesses translate their brand or product names for different countries?

It’s a good question. You would think that the advantages of using the same brand and product name consistently throughout the world has many advantages, most importantly lower costs and universal brand recognition.

If only one size fitted all!

Different countries have different cultures and different values. They use different languages, have different senses of humour and use slang in a different way. A name that sounds punchy and modern in one language could easily sound plain silly in another.

Nordic Mist was never launched in Germany. Th word Mist in Germany literally means manure!

Nordic Mist was never launched in Germany. Th word Mist in Germany literally means manure!

A perfect example is the name for Coca Cola’s tonic water, Nordic Mist, launched to compete against the ubiquitous Schweppes tonic water. It took certain countries by storm such as Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Luxemburg, but was never launched in neighbouring Germany, as the word mist in German literally means manure!

And the answer to this problem does not necessarily lie in translation. Presumably Coca Cola felt that the translation of the English word mist into German (Nebel or Dunst) simply did not have the right ring to it.

Lays did not translate their brand name, but instead used different ones for different countries.

Lays did not translate their brand name, but instead used different ones for different countries.

And that is where cultural adaptation or localisation come in. To avoid a Nordic Mist problem, companies have the option to change their brand or product names from country to country in order to cater to their different audiences. A successful example of this is Walkers, the crisp and snack manufacturer. In the UK and Ireland the brand is known as Walkers, in the US and Spain as Lays, in Australia as Smith’s, in Mexico as Sabritas and in Brazil as Elma Chips. These are clearly not direct translations of the original name, but instead the company decided to use other brand names to suit the market in question.

If you are exporting your product or service and are struggling with questions about translations or localisation, do not hesitate to contact The Page Refinery. We offer translation and proofreading services as well as a web localisation service, where we help you culturally adapt your website in any language, reviewing the wording and style of your content to ensure that every word is appropriate for your target market. It is a cost-effective way of polishing your online presence, increasing your reach in Google searches and avoiding the potential embarrassment of cultural differences.

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