Top 13 Worst Marketing Slogan Translations Ever
13. 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.”
12. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing Sucks like an Electrolux.”
11. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick,” a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “Manure Stick.”
10. Coors put its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
9. Pepsi’s “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave” in Chinese.
8. 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.
7. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
6. 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.”
5. 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.
4. 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).
3. 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?”
2. General Motors had a very famous fiasco in trying to market the Nova car in Central and South America. “No va” in Spanish means, “It Doesn’t Go”.
1. 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 “kokoukole”, translating into “Happiness in the Mouth.”
Oh yes, the German translation of the Pringles slogan is another good example . Even though it should refer to the sound when a tin is opened, it produces a more sexual conotation. However, the slogan has long been used. I believe in this case it hasn´t affect the company in a bad way. In case of the other examples, I can´t believe that such mistakes are happening to those big companies. It shows how important it is to know the local market. Better to spent more money for professional translation services in order to achieve their marketing goals!!!
You missed a German classic. The classic Pringles slogan “Once you pop, you can’t stop” was translated into German as “Einmal gepoppt, nie mehr gestoppt”. Back into English, this means “once you fuck, you can’t stop”.
Hahaha.. some funny one…
I have to agree with thatguyy.
I think the Electrolux one..
“Nothing Sucks like an Electrolux.”
Anyhow…love your post..Made me smile for sure 😉
Excellent 😀 Why don’t these big companies hire proper translators???
Jan Walker Pinnington
Loved this post. Can’t imagine thinking that I was eating a jar of food made from dead babies. Amazing to see the cross-cultural differences in the way we communicate. Thank you for sharing!
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 “kokoukole”, translating into “Happiness in the Mouth.”
The general motors one really was a huge disaster. What did they rename it to again?
Haha! Sometimes you wondering what these marketing departments were thinking when they think up these slogans.
A very good marketing strategy is very important in promoting your products both online and offline.*~.
My australian cousins were convulsed and scandalized by the ads in NY for D’Agostinos: “Come to D’Agostinos get your dag dag bag…”, since down under, a dag is a dried up piece of sheep shit that clings to the wool near the sheep’s ass.
Also, I recall a hairspray I found in Madrid called “Shit!”
Exxon (formerly Humble/Esso/et al) paid millions to a PR firm to find a name that had NO meaning in ANY language, hence EXXON….
Regardless of whether each of these offers and exact translation, they all suggest that international marketers should really spend some time understanding the culture in which they do business. We operate in Ukraine and many would be surprised at the many misunderstandings that could be easily avoided.
“Nothing Sucks like an Electrolux.”
This was deliberate. It’s called a pun. Notice the rhyme, and the fact that vacuum cleaners really do suck.
It always helps to know your local market…
KeKouKeLa does not sound anything remotely like tadpole or female horse head in chinese. La is a chinese word for “wax”, and Tou is chinese for head, while Ge is chinese for to put or to insert.
Currently, the official translation of Cocoa Cola in China is “Ke Kou Ke Le” not “kokoukole”.
Ke Kou Ke Le means satisfying to the mouth and smile inducing. (No innuendos please :P)
I doubt the validity of some of these statements. Personally I had heard that bite the wax tadpole one was fake, and the “Nova” didn’t sell particularly badly as it’s read as one word, not “No va.” Add what the guy before me said, and I’m really unconvinced.
A Toothpaste Company unveiled hordings ( in Africa)advertising “Brush your teeth with Gleam” ,
not knowing it was their word for sh*t.
The Toyota model car …the Pajero is spanish for masturbater
This is interesting, however there actually is no such magazine in France as “Cue,” this just sounds like the French word for ass.