IKEA recently released its new furniture catalog to the German market. This wouldn’t normally be newsworthy, but after only a few days, it’s already all over the German media. Why? There are two women at IKEA headquarters in Sweden who think up the names for all the items that can be purchased at IKEA worldwide. They named a new candelabrum “Armleuchter Söder.” In Swedish, “Söder” means “South.” Customers in Germany, however, immediately think of the Bavarian Minister of Finance, whose last name is “Söder.”
Furthermore, a special connotation is hidden in the word “Armleuchter:” it means both candelabra and bonehead. This language gaffe is a perfect example of the importance of localizing products when entering multi-national markets. Though “bonehead Söder” is probably the most famous “candelabra” in Germany now, IKEA officials must not be too happy about this misguided notoriety.
MultiLing specializes in localizing product descriptions, marketing campaigns, manuals and other company-related documents for all relevant target markets. With language experts in more than 80 countries, you’ll always get correct wording and proper connotation.
Do you have any other examples of localization blunders like IKEA’s?