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THE AWKWARD TRANSLATION ON APPLE'S CHINESE WEBPAGE OF THE IPHONE6 TAGLINE.
Author: Yvette Fang | CEO, RABI
For one day and night, Chinese media and netizens were having a party with a theme: making fun of the simplified Chinese version of the main slogan for iPhone 6 because of its awkward language.
Why does Apple call the iPhone “Bigger than bigger?” Because, according to its website, "iPhone 6 isn’t simply bigger — it’s better in every way. Larger, yet dramatically thinner. More powerful, but remarkably power efficient." However, Apple’s Chinese version of the slogan is a word-to-word translation, which forms an awkward phrase and refers only to the actual size, not the added functionality.
Translation has three levels, from low to high: faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance. Apple’s Chinese translation does not even reach the faithfulness stage, never mind expressiveness or elegance, despite Apple’s reputation in the U.S. for its marketing prowess.
The translation has since been revised to a better reflect what Apple is trying to say, but not without having left its mark. In China, Apple competes against upstart cell phone maker Xiaomi, whose phones are known for being competitive in terms of functionality and inexpensive compared to the big brands. Apple’s translation snafu has led to Chinese consumers debating whether they should purchase a phone that is “bigger than bigger in size,” and missing the point that the phone also offers functions that cheaper imitations don’t provide.
Most of us, at one time or another have had a similar experience, where we encountered an advertising slogan that made no sense or didn’t explain the value in a way that spoke to us. It is like hearing a song which does not touch your heart. If it doesn’t ring true, you won't buy it. When selling premium products and services in foreign market, using a premium local language service is key. Subtle language nuances can make all the difference in relating thoughts and information.
Steve Jobs used to scratch iPhone screens with a key to test the material. If Apple had taken the time to test their marketing message like they did their product, they would not have damaged their reputation and confused their customers.