Translations of brand names, marketing, manuals, and other materials can be a problem. In 2005, Ikea tried to market a kid's workbench called the Fartfull. It meant speedy in Swedish. And probably laughter in English. And there's an entire list of words that mean one thing in English and another in various languages.

Wix, the HTML5 website creation online tools vendor, found this out in 2015. The company had been doing business in Germany and learned that there was a different meaning of wix in German: masturbation.

They didn't address the issue at the time, for some reason, although "as part of an internal marketing contest, we made a short video about it celebrating our customers who 'did it themselves,'" said Eran Gefen, vice president of creative at Wix. Now the company is taking care of business, so to speak.

It's decided to own the connection and use it as a marketing tool in Germany and has launched some billboard advertisements in prominent locations in Berlin, according to the company's PR agency. Plus, there's a website, of course. The major text on that page reads, "Was Sie schon immer übers Wixen wissen wollten, sich aber nie zu fragen wagten." According to Google Translate, the English is, "What you always wanted to know about wanking, but never dared to ask."

Kind of a high school vibe to it. Here are some of the other messages, according to the PR firm:

  • Every 74 seconds another German is discovering the power of Wixing
  • 19.8% of all Wixers are doing it on the go
  • The most popular day for Wixing is Tuesday
  • In 2019, the number of Wixers in Berlin has grown by 32%

Wix is far from the first company that decided on a risqué marketing strategy. GoDaddy did for years, especially in its Super Bowl ads. But, eventually, even that web hosting company changed its tune.

The problem facing a company that uses a bawdy approach is that some people will love it. Many won't. You then have to decide who you want mostly as clients.Will you focus on youth that will find the branding a fun set of puns? Will other groups that could be more important find the messages off-putting?

Emotion is important in any branding and marketing context. So is your intellect. Here are a few things that Wix could have done to make the entire situation work better, rather than trying to show how creative they are when they made an error in 2015:

  • Before introducing a brand in any other part of the world, run it by some native speakers of the target language. See if they can find anything objectionable.
  • Consider using multiple brands if necessary. Yes, a global brand would be better (and you can introduce one instead), but best to create an image that woks for you everywhere.
  • If there is a problem, whatever you do, don't wait a few years until addressing it. The timing makes you look bungling.