Marketing slogans lost in translation

Published 20th August 2013
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Today’s blog is part of an article by Sandra Nunes Teixeira of the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament; a reminder of the importance of localisation for companies that enter the international market in the hope of successfully selling their products worldwide.

Here are some classic translation blunders in marketing and advertising for your entertainment:

It is hard to believe that this translated slogan has been used in China to promote the famous cola. The soda selling giant translated the original slogan Pepsi brings you back to life into Mandarin meaning Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.

The Jolly Green Giant for Green Giant in Arabic directly translates to Intimidating Green Ogre

Braniff International Airways´ slogan Fly in leather came out as Fly naked (Spanish Vuela en cuero).

Mitsubishi launched the rover vehicle Pajero 4WD in Spain, ignoring the fact that the word pajero means jerk in Spanish. The car´s name has then been changed to Mitsubishi Montero.

The Italian mineral water company promoted their water Traficante in Spain not knowing that the word traficante means drug dealer in Spanish.

When Kentucky Fried Chicken opened their first store in China, it did not take long before they discovered their slogan, finger lickin’ good translated to eat your fingers off.

In Italy a campaign for Schweppes Tonic water translated the drink´s name into Schweppes Toilet Water.

Pepsodent promoted its toothpaste in a distinct area in Southeast Asia by highlighting that it whitens your teeth. This campaign entirely failed because the locals chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth as it is considered attractive.

IKEA named one of its new desks FARTFULL to promote fährt (speed) given the desks’ wheels and the design.

The Brewing Company Coors translated its slogan Turn it loose into Suffer from diarrhea in Spanish.

An American T-shirt designer printed shirts for the Spanish market to promote the visit of the Pope. Instead of I saw the Pope (el Papa), the shirts read I saw the potato (la papa).

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