Marketing Translation Mistakes that Should Never Have Happened

onOctober 15, 2015

inTranslation Tips

Marketing Translation Mistakes

Marketing Translation Mistakes

It’s quite amazing how easy it is to make a translation mistake so that a text is actually mistranslated.  This could be due to the proofreading services used or just simply a failure of the translator when researching language equivalence.

  • The “Got Milk” campaign run by The U.S. Dairy Association was also run in Mexico but the marketing translation services responsible for the translation into Spanish was not only contentious but was also incorrect as it meant “Are You Lactating?”
  • A similar translation when translated from English to Spanish for Coors Brewing was “Turn it loose” in English but “Suffer from diarrhoea” in Spanish. Not a very appetising advert for beer!
  • In Germany, Clairol launched “Mist Stick” – a curling iron. “Mist” in the German language means manure. It is slang but “manure sticks,” it seems, are not exactly sought after in Germany!
  • Gerber, a baby food manufacturer with a smiley baby on its packages and jars, infiltrated the African market. It wasn’t for some time that the company realised that an African marketing strategy aimed at those people who were not literate used pictures on tins and packets illustrating the container’s contents. No doubt, Gerber’s “edible babies” message was not looked upon very favourably.
  • Pepsi tried to establish a presence in China with the slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” translated into Chinese languages. This literally in Chinese means, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.
  • In France, not so long ago, Colgate launched a toothpaste brand called “Cue”. The company did not realise that there is a pornographic magazine in France published with the very same name. The choice of toothpaste brand must have caused some raised eyebrows in France when it was launched!
  • Parker Pen, when in Mexico, decided to get translated into Spanish “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” The company translator used the word “embarazar” thinking it meant “embarrass” but in fact it meant to impregnate! The advertisement read in Spanish: “It won’t leak out in your pocket so you won’t become pregnant” – depending of course what you want from a pen!
  • The word “latte” in Italy means milk in English. In English, a “latte” is typically the way a coffee drink can be prepared. Starbucks was considered to be responsible for the growth in latte drinkers. In Germany, however, if you order a “latte” for breakfast you may startle the waitress as a “morning latte” in slang is the presence of an erection when a person awakes in the morning. Not just your average business document translation!
  • Translations into Spanish often do cause embarrassment if the translation is not researched well enough in advance. Braniff International Airways used the slogan “Fly in Leather” for a time, but this means “Fly naked” when translated into Spanish!
  • Electrolux, which is a Scandinavian vacuum cleaner company, used the following slogan in the U.S.A. “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” The brand probably didn’t sell too well until the slogan was modified!
  • Pepsi reduced its market share in Asia’s south east when it altered the colour of its drinks vending machines from deep to light blue. As it stands the colour light blue is a symbol for mourning and death in Southeast Asia so soda would not be particularly popular in a light blue can.

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