Lost in translation.

Even if it's all in English, different media speak different languages.

In our Global Marketing posting a few months back, we touched on the near impossibility of translating copy effectively between languages. For example, the phrase "even the mother of the tomatoes" might befuddle an English speaker, but to someone who speaks Mexican Spanish "hasta la madre de los tomates" means "everyone imaginable" or "everyone and his brother."

Concepts can move between languages and cultures, but copy and specific executional elements can't. While the English-language original of "Vuele en cuero" meant "Fly [seated] on leather," the translation came out "Fly naked."

Probably not what the airline had in mind.

Of course it's not just the massive misunderstandings possible when translating an idiomatic expression (or inadvertently translating an apparently innocuous set of words into an unfortunate idiomatic expression) that make translations ineffective. Most translations are stilted or awkward.

When a BrainPosse principal was responsible for marketing communications for a group of multinational brands throughout a region with four principal languages and several significant sub-dialects, every single message was written by a writer (not a translator) fluent in the language and dialect in which the message was going to be used, targeted specifically to the linguistic idiosyncrasies of the target audience.

That often meant that one message was re-written half a dozen times or more. This seeming inefficiency of rewriting the same basic concept over and over again was necessary, because it was the only was to assure that the message was communicated effectively to each audience.

The impossibility of translating messages effectively between languages is mirrored in the difficulty in moving messages between media.

A website and a TV commercial are completely different, even when the language is the same. Newspapers aren't read in the same way as direct mail or in-store collateral material.

To complicate things still farther, different audiences experience media differently. A single mother who tunes in to the evening TV news while she prepares dinner perceives the broadcast and its commercials totally unlike the way a retiree sitting in front of the set does. Read more at http://www.brainposse.com/.