Translating Marketing Campaigns into Spanish

A lot of companies try to translate marketing campaigns into Spanish, but only a few are successful. The reason for this is because there are cultural differences that every translator should know about when translating into Spanish.

Differences between Regions

Some of the first challenges are the differences between regions of the world that speak Spanish. Spain itself is divided into several autonomous communities and provinces, one of which is Catalonia, which also has its own language. Aside from this, the people in each region are very passionate about their own culture. If a company would like to start selling in Barcelona, it would be wiser to translate their campaign into Catalan instead of Castilian, which is what the rest of the world knows simply as Spanish.

There are already many global companies that work in both Castilian and Catalan, McDonald’s being one of them. Because Barcelona is such a sizeable market in Spain, there is a lot of success to be had by specifically focusing a marketing strategy on the Catalan language.

Slang in Spain

Another key difference to keep in mind is the slang that is used in Spain. One example I remember from university is an ad for the Fiat Punto, an Italian car. Originally, when Fiat tried to sell their car in Spain, they expected to sell a great deal of cars because it fit the market perfectly. However, when they looked at sales, the numbers were particularly low. At first, they thought it could be something wrong with the car. Then, when they decided to look at it from the customer’s angle, someone realized that punto in Spanish is a slang term for male genitalia. Because of the negative connotations, no one wanted to drive the car, let alone purchase it.

Linguistic differences are not only limited to slang. Some words and sentences can have double meanings and translate differently into another language. This can make literal translations too confusing to be understood.

Here is another example: when American Airlines wanted to promote their new first class leather seats in Mexico, they literally translated ‘Fly in Leather’ into Spanish. In doing so, they unknowingly used words that mean something different in Mexico, and essentially wrote ‘Fly Naked’ instead of what they intended to say.

In conclusion, when trying to translate into Spanish because you want to enter a certain market, be sure to understand the subtle differences between Spanish and English, and keep cultural differences in mind. These differences can make or break an advertising campaign.

About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.