10 Marketing Translation Mistakes by Big Brands

Kristina Temelkova

I am born and raised in Bulgaria, but I'm currently living in Vienna, Austria. Besides content writing, I work as a translator, video editor, and caption writer. At present, I’m also finishing my master’s degree in applied linguistics at the University of Vienna. I speak four languages: Bulgarian, English, German, and Russian.

May 4, 2020 | Language, Culture

Global brand expansion is a big and risky step that requires a lot of research and cultural adaptation. When it comes to localization, it is in your best interest to work with resident experts who will do trademark research for you to ensure that your brand resonates with local cultural beliefs and traditions.

Unfortunately, some brands had to burn their fingers before learning this lesson. Indeed, you might find it interesting to read our list of 10 epic marketing translation mistakes by big brands.

  1. Coca Cola

The favourite drink of young and old around the world had a hard time establishing itself on the Chinese market. Especially after it became clear that depending on the dialect the brand’s name translated into either “Bite the wax tadpole” or “Female horse stuffed with wax”.

  1. Pepsi

The expansion on the Taiwanese market proved to be an obstacle for the biggest rival of Coca Cola – Pepsi. The brand’s slogan “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” was translated as “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.

Also Read: 10 Big Brands with Hindi Taglines

  1. KFC

KFC is yet another big name that got lost in the translation. The brand’s famous slogan “finger-lickin’ good” took a wrong turn and was translated as “eat your fingers off” in Chinese.

  1. Puff

The famous American tissue brand found out the hard way that their name would not fit into the German market since in German “puff” is a slang word for brothel.

Also read: 10 Untranslatable German Words

  1. Pampers

Cultural beliefs happened to be the stumbling block for Pampers’ launch in Japan. In Europe the image of a stork bringing a newborn baby is extremely common, however, in Japan, this is not the case. So when the brand used an image of a stork in its Japanese advertisement, it caused a lot of confusion among Japanese customers.

  1. Vicks

The German language played a cruel trick on the American brand Vicks. The brand overlooked a very prominent feature of the language – “v” is pronounced as “f”. So when reading the brand’s name in German, it sounds like the German word for sexual intercourse.

Also Read: Top Global Brands with Exceptional Localization Strategies

  1. Electrolux

The Swedish home appliances manufacturer Electrolux once launched an advertising campaign in the US for their vacuum cleaners under the slogan “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.

  1. Mercedes-Benz

Car manufacturers would usually try to reassure their customers of the safety of their cars. Mercedes-Benz once, however, unintentionally did just the opposite. The brand was renamed Bensi when it expanded to China which turned out to mean “rush to die”.

Also Read: How To Localize Your Website For China

  1. American Motors

When in the 1970s American Motors released the Mediator, the model didn’t enjoy great success in the Spanish-speaking world. The reason – in Spanish the name means “killer”.

  1. Chevrolet

Chevrolet is yet another car manufacturer which also had an amusing mishap with the translation of one of its models. When the company introduced their Chevrolet Nova in Latin America, no one took into consideration the fact that nova means “no go” in Spanish.

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