Sunday, March 26, 2017

International Marketing Fiascos

I came across some famous campaign slogans and names that didn’t translate all that well to foreign markets. Check these out.

Chevy Nova did not sell well in South and Central America. “No va” means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish.

Coors had a translation problem with their “Turn It Loose” campaign. In Spanish it means “Suffer From Diarrhea”.  Although that could just be truth in advertising.

The Spanish language was no friend to chicken czar Frank Perdue. His slogan, "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" translated to "it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."

More Spanish: When Parker Pen introduced a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." The ads really read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant!"

“Mist” is slang for “manure” in German. So Clairol’s “Mist Stick” didn’t have the desired effect.

In China, Pepsi's "Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave”. And it’s refreshing!

Finally,  this was my favorite: When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with that cute baby on the label. Trouble is, in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of what's inside, since many people can't read. Yum!!


Bill Avena said...

May not be related, but I remember a China/Coke story about Coca Cola translating into "bite the wax tadpole".

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the other ones, but the Nova sales in South America is myth based on a joke, along the lines of "Ford stands for Found On The Road Dead". I've seen this myth trotted out a lot on social media, often to illustrate some point about how dumb the posters think that people who live south of us are. It wouldn't surprise me if it was getting dusted off and used a lot more in the era of the Great Wall of Trump.

thirteen said...

Your mention of Gerber reminds me that, perhaps uniquely on American shelves, labels on cans of pet food show the intended user of the contents instead of what those contents are. This has caused a bit of confusion among some immigrants.

Andy Rose said...

As the anonymous poster points out, most of these are old marketing fish tales that are based on extremely exaggerated translations. Similarly, "Berliner" is the name of a German jelly donut, but unlike the urban legend, no German really thought that JFK was trying to say, "I am a jelly donut."

One real, ongoing lost-in-translation issue involves the world's largest bakery, a Mexican corporation named Bimbo. It's a made-up brand name pronounced "bean-bo" in Spanish, but for obvious reasons it's been a tough sale in the U.S. They have kept their company name because it's so well known in a large part of the world, but they sell most of their bread in the U.S. under American brand names they've bought in acquisitions, like Sara Lee and Entenmann's.

DBenson said...

And once upon a time, Bimbo was a male dog character in the old Max Fleischer cartoons. His girlfriend was redesigned from dog to human and became known as Betty Boop, but weirdly the canine Bimbo was still her boyfriend in many cartoons (Koko the Clown from "Out of the Inkwell" was occasionally the boyfriend but more often Bimbo's sidekick). In time Bimbo was phased out in favor of Fearless Fred, a stock hero type.

Ane said...

Don't know if this one is true or not but I heard it from many different sources:Honda tried to release a car in Norway as Honda Fitta. Fitta is slang for vagina in Norwegian. The car was described as large on the inside, tiny on the outside... It was released as Honda Jazz instead.

Anders E said...

The Honda story really is true, and it was an issue also in Sweden. Another sales slogan used by Honda was "A daily pleasure".

A similar example is Ford Pinto. "Pinto" is apparently Brazilian slang for male genitalia.

DBenson said...

Not a fiasco in itself, but the cherry atop an erupting turkey:
Kracatoa is WEST of Java.