When Gorton’s Seafood recently launched their Spanish-language website, gortonsenespanol.com, to speak to Hispanic consumers, they overlooked one tiny accent mark and it made a huge difference. Intending for their homepage headline to translate to “Moms & Seafood,” or “Mamás y Mariscos,” the editors instead published the headline “Mamas y Mariscos,” which has another meaning entirely. Without the accent mark, the word “mamas” describes a part of the female anatomy, namely the mammary glands, to put it in scientific terms.
Blogger Laura Martinez at Mi Blog Es Tú Blog, caught the mistake and wrote an article about it with a rather NSFW title that I won’t reprint here. I will quote her post:
“I love it when marketers go out of their way and launch Spanish-language web sites to reach my people (i.e. Hispanics.)
But just one little thing. If you are going to be as rigorous as Gorton’s Seafood, which seems to be pretty good at putting accents and including “eñes” in their Spanish-language copy, you might want to make sure to put a little accent over the word “mamás” … I mean, if what you mean is to talk about moms (mamás) and not what some dirty minds (not mine) might be thinking of.”
Martinez’s post goes to show that the Spanish-speaking consumer is a) bilingual and b) media savvy enough to share their honest opinions with hordes of other consumers online in both English and Spanish. Plus, there’s a whole network of Latino bloggers online who are all connected. Soon other Latino blogs were covering the story. In a post called “No Mames, @gortonsseafood: Gorton’s en Español Site #Fails”, which was also directed at Gorton’s Twitter account, website Latino Rebels asks, “Is this a seafood site or a porn site?” (By the way, “No mames” loosely translates to, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” but contains the same root as mamas. Latino bloggers pointing out Gorton’s cultural ignorance was not Gorton’s intended outcome, I’m sure.)
Latin humor blog Pocho.com also brought up the issue that the word “mariscos,” while being the correct Spanish translation for seafood, is also slang for homosexual in South America. When paired with the female anatomy faux pas, a South American’s mind can quickly make the NSFW leap to the more crude interpretation of the word.
What a difference one little accent mark makes!
Fortunately for Gorton’s, they paid attention to their audience and not only fixed the mistake but copped to it in a letter to Martinez:
“Though we used a Spanish translation service, and had Spanish-speaking staff members review the site before it was launched, this typo was somehow overlooked. We truly regret the error and sincerely apologize to you and to any of our consumers who may have been offended.”
They even offered to send her a free gift. Fishsticks, hopefully!
The incident provides yet another valuable lesson to marketers who would translate their content to attract a Spanish-speaking audience. A look at some of the comments on the above-mentioned websites, written by real-life Hispanic consumers, provides great insight:
“It seems like another case of middle America getting a fully-developed product (and website), and Latin consumers get recycled leftovers that aren’t given the same attention.”
When you’re only giving your audience a half-baked product, they will notice.