Image Translation: What You See Isn’t Always What They Get

The importance of high-quality translation is obvious in getting your company’s message across in a new country. But what about images? Colors? Could these hamper your marketing abroad?

Absolutely. Here’s why you can’t ignore image translation.

Color Me Bad

Maybe marketing suggested a blue background as calming, or maybe someone thought green really made the letters in your company name “pop.” Although North Americans typically associate blue with the sky or sea and green with nature or growth, consumers in other countries may have a different take. For example, blue is associated with periods of mourning in Korea, while in Greece, blue is used to ward off the “evil eye.” Green can symbolize infidelity in China and may indicate bad news in Israel. Purple, meanwhile, is associated with death or dying in the United Kingdom, Italy, Thailand, and Brazil, but it is considered the color of royalty in Japan.

Hands Off

It is also important to take a hard look at your image-based content for inadvertently offensive hand gestures. As noted by the Huffington Post, several common—and inoffensive—gestures in the United States mean something completely different abroad. The “thumbs-up,” for example, is a simple sign of approval in Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia, and Russia. In Latin America, West Africa, and Iran, however, making this gesture at someone is liable to start a fight because it is considered an offensive, personal insult. And crossed fingers, which often indicate hope for a future event or are used to wish someone good luck, are considered lewd in Vietnam. The classic “peace” sign, meanwhile, is used as a sign of contempt for authority in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia.

Poor image translation means a terrible first impression and may cause prospective customers to walk away before ever reading your slogan or sales pitch. The bottom line? Product localization. Always translate website or product images to best fit your localized audience.

Image source: Flickr

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is a freelance technology writer with a passion for telling great stories about unique brands. For the past five years, he's covered everything from cloud computing to home automation and IT security. He speaks some French, is fluent in Ancient Greek and a master of Canadian English — and yes, colour needs a 'u'.