See the first post in this serie here
Although cruel, cross cultural marketing mistakes are a humorous means of understanding the impact poor cultural awareness or translations can have on a product or company when selling abroad.
1. When Kentucky Fried Chicken entered the Chinese market, to their horror they discovered that their slogan "finger lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off"
2. Chinese translation also proved difficult for Coke, which took two tries to get it right. They first tried Ke-kou-ke-la because when pronounced it sounded roughly like Coca-Cola. It wasn't until after thousands of signs had been printed that they discovered that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect. Second time around things worked out much better. After researching 40,000 Chinese characters, Coke came up with "ko-kou-ko-le" which translates roughly to the much more appropriate "happiness in the mouth".
3. Things weren't much easier for Coke's arch-rival Pepsi. When they entered the Chinese market a few years ago, the translation of their slogan "Pepsi Brings you Back to Life" was a little more literal than they intended. In Chinese, the slogan meant, "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave".
4. General Motors had a perplexing problem when they introduced the Chevy Nova in South America. Despite their best efforts, they weren't selling many cars. They finally realized that in Spanish, "nova" means "it won't go". Sales improved dramatically after the car was renamed the "Caribe."
5. Things weren't any better for Ford when they introduced the Pinto in Brazil. After watching sales go nowhere, the company learned that "Pinto" is Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals." Ford pried the nameplates off all of the cars and substituted them with "Corcel," which means horse.
6. Sometimes it's one word of a slogan that changes the whole meaning. When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead the ads said "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
7. Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."
8. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux"
9. 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?"
10. American Motors tried to market its car, the “Matador,” in Puerto Rico based on an image of strength and courage, however, in Puerto Rico the word, literally translated, means “killer.” The inappropriate name is linked to the car’s lack of popularity because of the many hazardous roads in the country and the correlation with death made by consumers.
Some funny cross cultural marketing and translation mistakes
What if stop signs were invented by a major corporation
Chuck Norris Programming facts
When CAPTCHA goes bad
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.