In eloquent fashion, Ikea in Bahrain rebounded from what could have been either a clerical error or a clever marketing tactic. The Twittersphere took notice.
When advertising globally, companies occasionally make mistakes in translation, as seen by IKEA’s latest gaffe in its Bahrain location. On a mural painted outside the store’s parking garage, an advertisement for bedding materials read, “Create your perfect night’s sleep,” in English. The Arabic version, however, read, “The same as written, but in Arabic.”
Taking notice of the strange translation, locals in Bahrain reported the advertisement to news agencies, which broadcast the news all over the region. In response to the widespread news coverage, IKEA updated the display, painting a strikethrough across the original mistranslation and writing another couple lines in Arabic below, which said, “This is what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. Enjoy your perfect sleep.”
After speaking to Sneha Sharma, the Twitter user who brought attention to the mistake on Twitter, Adweek reported that while she believes that it was a mistake, she acknowledges how adroitly the company handled the mistake.
“I think it was an honest mistake. The team approving the final ads and those printing it could have been non-Arabic speakers. So, there is a chance this is a genuine slip,” she said. “Most of us have been in such a situation where many eyes have gone through the ads, yet we have missed out on the mistakes only to realize when they go live. So we know, such slips can happen.”
Sharma is a senior social media manager and conceptual creative at agency Memac Ogilvy Bahrain, which has worked with Ikea in Dubai — though not at the Bahrain location. While she acknowledges IKEA’s smooth landing by its willingness to poke fun at itself, she also recognizes the possibility that it was not a planned error. Instead, it could have been an intentional blunder meant to spark discussion in Bahrain for the Sweden-based retailer.
“There is a slight possibility that this could have been intentional. Their revised ads, after the original went viral, as well their media responses, certainly make it seem so,” she said. “The whole episode stays within the Ikea vibe and sounds almost believable. I still think it is a clever cover-up for an honest mistake.”
Whether a ploy to garner media attention or simply a human error, IKEA’s mistranslation has performed the functions of an advertisement at an impressive level both for the Bahrain location and IKEA as a whole. Not only did the mistake spread IKEA’s name around Twitter through the discussion that followed, it also attracted many in Bahrain to witness it for themselves.
“Many drove to Ikea to check if it indeed happen,” Sharma said. “So, without spending a penny, this went viral in the country and got everyone talking about you. To me, that’s pretty impressive, even for an honest mistake.”