- When Pepsi 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”.
- In Italy, a campaign for “Schweppes Tonic Water” translated the name into the much less thirst quenching “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- Coors put its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
- When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in Leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly Naked.”
- 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?”
- Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”
- 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)
- Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it expanded to English-speaking countries and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of the Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name. The company didn’t change the name of all its divisions though. Visitors to Japan still have the opportunity to take a ride on the Kinki Nippon Railway.