Lost in Translation

Although companies often hire translation services and run native-speaker checks when creating a campaign, the reality is that words, phrases and concepts do not always transfer so well to other countries and cultures.

"It takes a sexually aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."

"Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave."

"Suffer from diarrhea."

These are just a few of the mistranslated ad slogans from mega-marketing campaigns over the years. Perhaps you have heard them in their intended forms:

"It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken." (Purdue Farms)

"Come alive with the Pepsi Generation." (Pepsi)

"Turn it loose." (Coors)

How does your church communicate with the community you're in? Do the people in your surrounding areas know you the way you think you should be known? Are you the church with the loud music? The cheesy sign? The frustrating parking? Oftentimes a church's intended message can get lost in translation. When you say you're the "church that never sleeps," then why is there no one to answer the phone? When you say your church has "something for everyone," how come the youth ministry is virtually nonexistent?

The next time you communicate who your church is to people, try running it through a few "translation services." If Coca-Cola can figure out how to communicate to the other side of the world, certainly your church can communicate to the people across the street.


Brad Abare is the director of communications for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founder of the Center for Church Communication, and president of Personality, a communication and marketing consultancy.

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What if church marketing materials were communal? At the Center for Church Communication (cfcclabs.org) , they are. Far from just an open-source online community, the Web site also offers fresh resources, ideas, networking, ministry "labs" and more.

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