Some Global Marketing Gaffes: Brand U Study Guide
There are many, many cases when marketing departments of very large companies have failed to test product
names and slogans in foreign markets. Below are some of the "classics".
||The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as
Unfortunately, the Coke company did not
discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase
means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending
on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a
close phonetic equivalent,
which can be loosely
translated as "happiness in the mouth."
||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".
||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."
||Ford's Comet, was
called "Caliente" in Mexico. "Caliente" literally means "hot" (as in
temperature), but colloquially it is also used for either "horny" or
Ford 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.
Ford's Fiera doesn't do well either, since "fiera" means
"ugly old woman" and Ford's Cortina translated as "jalopy".
||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
||Chicken-man Frank Perdue's
slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got terribly
mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his
birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained
"It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused."
||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."
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer, used this ad in the U.S.: "Nothing sucks
like an Electrolux."
||A hair products
company, Clairol, introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into Germany
only to find out that mist is slang for manure. Not too many people had use
for the manure stick.
||In Italy, a campaign
for "Schweppes Tonic Water" translated the name into the much less thirst
quenching "Schweppes Toilet Water."
|"All people are not necessarily led by the same evidence to the same
conclusions. It frequently turns out that assumptions held in one country
are not matched in another."
from Mindsets, by Glen Fisher
Intercultural Press, 1988