Localisation in advertising and marketing
Everyone’s heard of Scrooge, right? Not so fast… In French-language markets, we have our own famous skinflints. The best-known penny-pincher in Québec is a guy called Séraphin Poudrier, first created in a book called Un Homme et son péché, further popularized in the film of the same name, then in a radio and a television series both called Les Belles Histoires des pays d’en haut. The radio show ran for 24 years, while the television actor Jean-Pierre Masson’s characteristic hunched shoulders and gruff tone and mannerisms were legend for a decade and a half afterwards, from 1956 to 1970. This single character may well have spawned the most enduring pop culture phenomenon in Québec history. There will soon be a remake, with production wrapped up on about nine episodes, all fine-tuned to appeal to a modern audience. So: if you’re thinking of advertising with a skinflint in Québec, think Séraphin, not Scrooge.
The Code civil
Every province has its own laws, due to constitutional jurisdiction over commerce. However, in most provinces, civil law procedures are all governed by common law. In Québec, the Code civil, which is similar to the Napoleonic Code in France, is used instead. Province-to-province differences generally can affect your translation if, for example, your product is banned in a particular region due to new legislation. This occurred with leash laws recently: no vendor can sell leashes using electric shocks in Québec, as they are viewed as a form of animal cruelty. However, these leashes are still allowed in other parts of Canada.
Trademarks and promotional material
Some trademarks have been translated into French, others have not. Recent Supreme Court judgments have allowed businesses with trademarks registered in only one language to use them in signage: this is the case for Best Buy, Costco Wholesale, Gap, Guess?, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’us and Curves. However, where a trademark has been translated, it must be used in any commercial document intended for the public. Trademarks are not the only things affected: according to a ruling in February 2014, the use of French also applies to social media such as Facebook.
The use of French internally is mandatory for businesses with 50 or more employees. However, the Office de la langue française may require a business with fewer than 50 employees to analyze its linguistic situation and prepare a francization program.