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Marketing Failures -- Photo of a child with hands over her eyes - - - original photo from Microsoft Office Design Gallery Live
The Perils of Translation

The world is smaller. The internet has done that.

But language still poses many barriers.

What I say and what you hear may not always be the same.

Don't believe me? Buy a product made overseas and read the English translation of the instructions.

Need more examples? These marketing failures may help to illustrate . . .


1. Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose", into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea".

2. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an electrolux."

3. Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into German only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick".

4. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the beautiful Caucasian 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.

5. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

6. 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).

7. Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave", in Chinese.

8. 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".

9. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Ke-kou-ke-la", 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 "ko-kou-ko-le", translating into "happiness in the mouth".

10. 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." Instead, 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."

 

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This page created:
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Wed, 17.Oct.2001

Last updated:
16:17, Sat, 10.May.2014

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