What Three Words Can Do

Events in the clothing industry this week bring to the forefront an important but often unrecognized issue: product localization. Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo has found itself in a localization quagmire. This may be the first real speed bump for Uniqlo, which had been rapidly expanding into the US market. Their newest line of clothes has been localized as ‘Pure Blue Japan’. Sounds catchy, right? There’s just one problem: there is already a niche but well-regarded clothing company that is also localized in English as Pure Blue Japan.

Reactions in the vocal online community, which previously held both companies in high regard, have ranged from disappointment that it was not a collaboration, to outright anger at what has been perceived as deceptive marketing tactics or the theft of a brand name. One can only imagine befuddled Uniqlo executives scratching their heads in their Japanese offices as the negative feedback pours in.

A few other well-known anecdotes are often passed around and laughed at:

The Chevy Nova, which sounds like ‘it doesn’t go’ in Latin American countries.

The Parker Pen, which ‘ni te embarazar’,’ – will not impregnate you (they were going for embarrass).

The Spanish version of the famous ‘Got Milk?’ slogan, ”Tienes leche?’ which can mean ‘Are you lactating?’

While these are humorous, the financial costs associated with localization errors are anything but. Underestimating the difficulty and subtleties of localization is an oft-repeated, but easily avoidable mistake. Fortunately, help is a phone call away. The localization specialists at American Language Services can draw on a wealth of experience to keep our clients well-informed and connected with their target markets. Due diligence now can save you months of damage control down the road.

American Language Services is a proud provider of localization, translation, interpretation, transcription and media services to private industry, government at all levels, and educational and non-profit organizations. Our thousands of linguists around the world and teams of dedicated professionals are ready to serve.

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