18th March, 2022

Packaging needs to be practical and functional, but also look good and make sense to the consumer. What may seem like a harmless mistake on the packaging of a product can lead to serious PR issues, widespread ridicule, or even legal issues.

With so many companies now expanding globally, it’s no surprise that there is now a rise in translation mishaps. Higher demand means more stock, which could cause time constraints and lead to cutting corners in the manufacturing process, specifically around packaging translation.
As more and more of us order online from global retailers, businesses are shipping internationally, so the risk for ill-translated packaging has never been higher.
Have you ever received an order that just didn’t look right? Perhaps the packaging was off, and you could tell the manufacturers had problems dealing with translation.

Here are some examples of translation packaging gone wrong…

As consumers, we might often see these mistakes, have a chuckle at the packaging and ignore it, or simply chuck it away. But when it comes to more serious packaging, such as medicine, chemicals, or anything that has moving parts or might affect our health, it becomes more serious.
Getting translation right becomes much more critical when there is a serious risk at stake.
If packaging fails to inform the consumer of what the product contains, or miscommunicates instructions on how to use it, this could lead to bad reviews, loss of consumers, and lack of trust in the future.

Culture Clash

Simply translating your packaging text from one language to another isn’t enough. It’s also crucial to understand the culture of your foreign market. For example, in China, the colour red is considered lucky, while in Ireland and the Middle East it’s green. In India, orange is seen as a sacred colour, and in Thailand Yellow is seen as lucky. This is just an example of how colour on your packaging can influence your consumer. There are many other ways translation and transcreation play a key role.
Sometimes your packaging can still fail you, even though your translation is perfect. This is because it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.
An example of this can be seen with Gerber’s baby food packaging in Africa. In some African countries, such as Ethiopia, foods are sold with a picture of what’s inside the product. This is because many consumers cannot read. So, it’s no surprise that Gerber's baby food packaging shocked so many people, which featured an adorable baby smiling.

Mistakes to avoid when translating packaging

• Translating literally instead of Transcreating
• Not knowing cultural differences
• Overlooking compliance requirements
• Neglecting to do market research

Elements you must consider when translating your packaging

Materials, colour scheme, images are all elements to consider when creating effective packaging. However, if you are a larger business ready to cross borders, translation is another important element to consider. Translation is often overlooked, because more time is spent on other areas of marketing the product.

Here are some key elements you should focus on when translating your packaging:

1. Legal requirements – Are you fully aware of what legal packaging requirements are for each country you are exporting your product to? Ingredients, dosage, instructions, etc.
2. Machine Translation won’t do – Automated translation by machine or services, such as Google Translate, will lead to inaccurate translations due to loss of cultural nuances.
3. Wording and overall design – Ensure the words chosen for your packaging match the product you are selling and can fit onto the packaging itself.
4. Product name – Is your product name and slogan suitable for your target market? Is it coherent? Is it offensive? Does it mean something else?

Why use a professional translation agency?

When choosing to work with us, you can rest assured your product is in perfect hands. Our team of expert native speaking translators offers high quality translation, localisation and transcreation services that you can trust.
Your packaging is your brand. Your instructions are your safety net. Get them right the first time.

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