Lost in Translation

Sometimes when companies introduce a product into a foreign market, names have different meanings or something goes wrong in the translation of slogans. Here are some funny examples of what could happen when marketing ¬†campaigns¬†get lost in translation…

    • Coors beer translated its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.”

 

  • Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick” curling iron to Germany, only to find out that in German “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.

 

 

  • 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.

 

 

Henno Kruger

Digital Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Junk Mail Publishing.

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