The Dairy Association’s huge success with the “Got Milk?” campaign prompted it to expand advertising to Mexico. Soon after, the Association learned that the Spanish translation reads, “Are you lactating?”
Coors translated its slogan “Turn It Loose” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”–a curling iron–into Germany, only to discover that “mist” is slang for manure. Not many people had use for the “Manure Stick.”
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, it used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the smiling baby on the label. Later the company learned
that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the product labels to indicate the contents, since many people can’t read.
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called “Cue,” the name of a notorious porno magazine.
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market promoting the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (“el Papa”), the shirts read, “I Saw the Potato” (“la papa”).
Pepsi’s “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” translated into Chinese as “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave.”
The Coca-Cola name in China was first read a “Kekoukela,” 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, “kokou kole,” which translated to “Happiness in the month.”
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.”
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” The company thought the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ads actually read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”!
When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first-class seats in the Mexican market, the company translated its “Fly in Leather” campaign literally, which meant “Fly Naked” (“vuela en cuero”) in Spanish!