True marketing errors

image Below are fine examples of what happens when marketing translations fail to reach a foreign country in an understandable way.

Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhoea.”

Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick,” a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “manure stick”.

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.

The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem-Feeling Free”, was translated into the Japanese market as “When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since most people can’t read English.

An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa).

In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into “Schweppes Toilet Water.”

Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave,” in Chinese.

When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that “It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which can be loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth.”

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off.”

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that “no va” means “it won’t go.” After the company figured out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

14 thoughts on “True marketing errors

  1. hehehe… my favorite mistake with “embarazar” is a woman being introduced in front of a Spanish-speaking church by the pastor, who waxed on and on about the godliness of her work and her great personality. So the woman gets behind the pulpit, blushing, and means to say “I’m so embarrassed”- but instead says, “I’m quite pregnant, and it’s all your pastor’s fault!”

  2. Here’s another one… Pajero in Spanish means masturbator (don’t know if it’s too rude to post ‘wanker’… but now I have!) according to my dearest bilingual Spaniard friend. 😉

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