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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Look into expanding into broader markets, September 16, 2007, 2D.

“Ich bin ein Ogre” were the first words that the plastic Shrek toy said after being opened from my son’s McDonald’s Happy Meal at a restaurant in Vienna, Austria.  What was funny about that experience is that we had an identical toy back home in Abilene that said, “I am an Ogre.” 

Shrek was not the only familiar animated character that we found to be multi-lingual.  “Bob the Builder,” as it turns out, is “Bob der Baumeister” in Germany‚ “Bob de Bouwer” in the Netherlands,  “Bob le Bricoleur” in France, “Bob y sus Amigos” in Spain, and “Bob Aggiustatutto” in Italy.

We also encountered “Dora the Explorer” speaking German while teaching viewers how to speak English.  At home Dora speaks English and teaches viewers to speak Spanish.  Even Homer Simpson and the characters of Springfield were fully conversant in German.

Our favorite cartoon in Vienna was “SpongeBob Schwammkopf”—which translates into English as “SpongeBob Spongehead.”  Personally, I think “Squarepants” is a much more interesting and appealing name, but it would definitely lose some of its charm in translation—“SpongeBob Quadratische Hosen.”

From an entertainment standpoint, it was fun to watch familiar television shows spoken in a different language.  The shows were also interesting to watch from a marketing and economics perspective. The cartoons that we watched had to be produced.  Stories were developed and scripts written.  Storyboards and artwork were created to properly convey the ideas and concepts of the stories.  Animators brought the stories to life through countless frames of artwork that tied together seamlessly to make the cartoon characters move.  Actors gave their voices to the characters to finish giving them life.  The combination of those efforts led to the completed cartoons.

The companies that create such shows invest heavily in the writing and production of the animated shows.   Producing a show in a different language does not drastically affect other production costs—it requires translation of the script and finding different actors to read and record the voices.  By translating scripts, logos, and theme songs into different languages, the companies that produce those shows add millions of viewers to their audiences.  Loyal fans of those shows are then very likely to buy toys, apparel, shoes, sleeping bags, notebooks, party supplies, backpacks, and other assorted merchandise featuring the show’s characters.  The relatively easy and inexpensive act of translating a show into different languages can expand market size and dramatically increase revenues for the production company.

Businesses of all types should strive to increase the size of their potential markets and customer bases.  Without ongoing profitable exchanges with those outside of the firm, companies will eventually go out of business.  Adapting products and services to the needs of local markets or modifying them to appeal to potential customers in new markets are ways to increase market size, sales, and revenues. That might be accomplished by advertising and promoting products and services in different languages or moving into other countries and foreign markets. 

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved