Schweppes Tonic Water in Italy
In Italy, a promotional campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water failed when the product name was translated as ‘Schweppes Toilet Water’. Subsequent campaigns have had better results.
Electrolux in the United States
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux raised a few eyebrows in the United States when it came up with the slogan ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’. It later reworded its strap? line.
Gerber in Africa
When baby food manufacturer Gerber started to sell its products in Africa it used the same packaging as for Western markets. This packaging included a picture of a baby boy on the label. Surprised at low sales, Gerber discovered that in Africa, as most customers can’t read English, Western companies generally put pictures on the label of what’s inside.
Coors in Spain
Coors beer had equally bad luck in Spain with its ‘Turn it loose’ slogan. It translated as ‘You will suffer from diarrhea’.
Frank Perdue’s chicken in Spain
Sticking with Spain, US food brand Frank Perdue’s chicken campaign created confusion with the strap? line ‘It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken.’ In Spain this became ‘It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.’
Clairol’s Mist Stick in Germany
When Clairol launched its ‘Mist Stick’ curling iron in Germany, the company apparently had no idea that ‘Mist’ was a slang term for manure. The company discovered that few women were crying out for a manure stick.
Parker Pens in Mexico
Parker Pens alarmed its Mexican market with ads intended to read ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you’ because, in fact, the ad stated ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you.’ The company had managed to confuse ‘embarrass’ with the Spanish verb ‘embarazar’ or ‘to impregnate’.
American Airlines in Mexico
When American Airlines decided to advertise the luxurious aspect of flying business class to their Mexican customers, they thought it would make sense to focus on the leather seats. They therefore used the slogan ‘fly in leather’ which, in Spanish, read ‘Vuelo en Cuero’. What the Spanish dictionary had neglected to inform them was that the phrase ‘en cuero’ is a slang term for ‘in the nude’. It soon emerged that there was little demand for mile-high naturism among Mexico’s business flyers.
Vicks in Germany
Vapour-rub manufacturer Vicks failed to attract much custom for its products in Germany. The problem was that ‘V’ is pronounced as an ‘F’ in German, meaning Vicks sounds like the German equivalent of the ‘f ’ word.
Kentucky Fried Chicken in Hong Kong
KFC’s ‘finger lickin’ good’ slogan is used the world over to highlight the tastiness of the product. However, when the phrase was translated into Chinese for the Hong Kong market, it came out as ‘eat your fingers off ’. Needless to say, most customers opted for the fries instead.