Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Does Viral Translate?
June 11, 2010 - By: - In: In the News / Awards - 30 comments

Nike translates well. In fact, most of what I’ve learned about making a US message work in different languages, I’ve learned from working for this very tough customer. I’ve been to the campus in Beaverton once, and I was blown away by the purpose and international vision of these “Just do it” global marketing mavens. They live the tagline.

But unfortunately for a language services provider like me, what translates best for Nike doesn’t seem to involve a lot of word-for-word translation these days.  As you know from previous posts, YouTube had been my downfall, and viral videos my vice. Some may call it a waste of time, but I call it market research!

“Write the Future” was on top of the Ad Age 5/27 Viral Video Chart and, as you can see from the graphic above, was viewed by millions around the world. That’s reach. The video broke the record for the biggest audience in the first week of a campaign with 7.8 million views. And once you watch the video, you’ll watch it again―and that, my friends, is called frequency.  Check this out.

World Cup mania is as global as it gets, and not a word in this video required translation. Oh well. Surely there’ll be some warning labels down the road, or something like that. Anyway. Great spot, featuring soccer (football) greats Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribéry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The passions that lead to riots by fanatical fans (Nigeria-North Korea stadium stampede at Tembisa earlier this week, case in point) represent a universal experience that gives global marketers a lever to reach a global audience without the need for localization.

This emergent global mass culture is language-less, or language-simple. As intellectual as a silent Mr. Bean. An arena culture of surging crowds, of blood in the sand and sex on the beach.  Hmm, not so different from most local cultures, I guess. So, to reach this post-literate audience, a post-literate message is required―no words, just moving images moving faster and faster. There is time for words down the pike, closer to the close, when audiences start reaching for their wallets. But literary reason only justifies decisions made in the heart, in pretend high drama that stirs the soul of even the dustiest old bookworm.

Here’s another Nike spot that’s a bit more intellectual, but just as universal, posted in the name of blog love for my man Omar Johnson, even though he had nothing to do with it. This one was done by the Japan team.  700,000 views on YouTube. Not bad.

The only problem here is that you can’t buy these Nike Free Run shoes with sound. They are only good for running.

(BTW, the record broken by “Write the Future,” was set by another Nike ad, the strange “Earl and Tiger” video, just a few months ago. That video had 6.3 million views in the first week and was the subject of countless parodies.)

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