Just for fun… Some of these may be true; some may be totally jokes… But they all send a serious message.
1. “The Jolly Green Giant” for Green Giant in Arabic directly translates to “Intimidating Green Ogre” (Source: White M. (2009) “A short course in international marketing blunders” Marketing mistakes made by companies that should have known better. World Trade Press)
2. Braniff International Airways´ slogan Fly in leather came out as “Fly naked” Spanish (“Vuela en cuero”). (Source: Brady, D. (2011)”Essentials of international Marketing” ME Sharpe)
3. Mitsubishi launched the rover vehicle “Pajero 4WD” in Spain ignoring the fact that the word “pajero” means “jerk” in Spanish. The car´s name has then been changed to Mitsubishi “Montero”. (Source)
4. The Italian mineral water company promoted their water Traficante in Spain not knowing that the word “traficante” means “drug dealer” in Spanish. (Source)
5. When Kentucky Fried Chicken opened their first store in China, it did not take long before they discovered their slogan, “finger lickin’ good” translated to “eat your fingers off.” (Source)
6. In Italy a campaign for Schweppes Tonic water translated the drink´s name into“Schweppes Toilet Water.” (Source: Haig M. (2004)”Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 biggest branding mistakes of all time” Kogan Page Limited)
7. Pepsodent promoted its toothpaste in a distinct area in Southeast Asia by highlighting that it “whitens your teeth.” This campaign entirely failed because the locals chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth as it is considered attractive. (Source: Verderber K. and R., Sellnow D. (2012) “Communicate“)
8. IKEA named one of its new desks “FARTFULL” to promote “fährt” (speed) given the desks’ wheels and the design. (Source: Rasmussen R., Mylonas A., Beck H. (2001)”Investigating Business Communication and Technologies” Cambridge University Press)
9. The Brewing Company Coors translated its slogan “Turn it loose” into “Suffer from diarrhea” in Spanish. (Source: Haig M. (2004)”Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 biggest branding mistakes of all time” Kogan Page Limited)
10. An American T-shirt designer printed shirts for the Spanish market to promot the visit of the Pope. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa). (Source: Ardagh P., (2009) “Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery”)
All of these marketing blunders are examples of how even the smallest translation error can have a great effect on a brand´s success overseas. Translation mistakes like these can be prevented by avoiding literal translation, checking pronunciation in other languages and researching the country´s cultural norms and values.