Bad Marketing Translations

  • The Dairy Association’s huge success with the campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?”
  • Coors put its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.
  • Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign:
    “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
  • Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick,” a curling iron, in to Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “Manure Stick.”
  • When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of what’s inside, since many people can’t read.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious pornographic magazine.
  • 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).
  • Pepsi’s “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave” in Chinese.
  • The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Kekoukela”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect.Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “kokou kole”, translating into “happiness in the mouth.”
  • Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” The company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”
  • When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its “Fly In Leather” campaign literally, which meant “Fly Naked” (vuela en cuero) in Spanish.
  • Ford blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil because the term in Brazilian Portuguese means “tiny male genitals”.
  • Ikea products were marketed in Thailand with Swedish names that in the Thai language mean “sex” and “getting to third base”.”
  • KFC made Chinese consumers a bit apprehensive when “finger licking good” was translated as “eat your fingers off”.”
  • Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which means “rush to die”.
  • Nike had to recall thousands of products when a decoration intended to resemble fire on the back of the shoes resembled the Arabic word for Allah.
  • Panasonic launched a Web-ready PC with a Woody Woodpecker theme using the slogan “Touch Woody: The Internet Pecker”.
  • Paxam, an Iranian consumer goods company, markets laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow,” resulting in packages labeled “Barf Soap”.
  • Puffs marketed its tissues under that brand name in Germany even though “puff” is German slang for a brothel.
  • Vicks introduced its cough drops into the German market without realizing that the German pronunciation of “v” is “f” making “Vicks” slang for sexual intercourse.