Have you seen these famous examples of translation gone wrong?

"Nothing sucks like an Electrolux" (Swedish company marketing vacuums to the USA)

"Bite the Wax Tadpole" (Coca-Cola's first try at translating it's product name into Chinese)

"It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant." (Parker Pen marketing a ballpoint pen in Mexico)

Obviously, these highly visible mistakes can devastate an international marketing campaign. What you don't often hear about are the less visible writing mistakes that can slowly bleed your company dry. The ones that aren't plastered all over billboards and magazine ads, but handed directly to individual clients, prospects, and business partners.

I'm talking about the business communication you generate on a weekly or daily basis: letters, proposals, emails, newsletters, blog articles, memos, etc. Although not as visible as public marketing messages, writing mistakes in your international business communication are just as toxic to your brand.

Here's why:

Weak International Business Writing Undermines Your Brand's Image.

Remember the movie, "Singin' in the Rain"? Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds singing in the rain. Classic. But remember Lina Lamont? In the movie, she was a great beauty of silent films who lost her career because her terrible voice wouldn't work for the "talkies."

► Your marketing is your brand's image. Your business communication is your brand's voice. Do they match?

If you've spent countless hours and dumped your whole budget into a slick image, how will people react when what comes out of your "mouth" sounds terrible. Suddenly, your brand isn't looking so pretty anymore.

Weak International Business Writing Lowers Your Brand's Income Potential.

This seems obvious: writing that doesn't make sense or connect with your audience isn't going to do much to convince them to buy from you, choose your service, partner with you, or anything else that will bring you revenue — no matter how cool your advertising looks.

Weak International Business Writing Decreases Your Brand's Credibility / Authority / Influence.

You may have fantastic information to share, but bad translations and weak writing can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and even ridicule. If you aren't able to connect effectively with others in your field — if you aren't able to express yourself or your ideas in a way that your international audience can easily follow — your brand certainly won't gain much footing as a leader.

One more thing:

Weak International Business Writing Can Destroy Your Personal Brand, Too.

Your international business communication is personal. It's going to a specific group of people — perhaps even a specific individual — with whom you want to communicate. It's also usually coming from a specific individual. If you, as the business owner, marketing director, sales representative, or account manager, sign your name to something, be aware of how it reflects on you, personally.

► In the next blog post, we'll talk about what can make your international business writing weak — and we'll discuss ways to strengthen yours as it crosses borders.

What funny (or just bad) translation mistakes and weak writing have you seen from international companies?

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