Branding exercises that went wrong
Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea".
Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into German only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick".
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.
In Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off".
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem-Feeling Free", was translated into the Japanese market as "When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read English.
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 which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I saw the potato" (la papa).
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water".
Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave", in Chinese.
We all know about GM's Chevy Nova meaning "it won't go" in Spanish markets, but did you know that Ford had a similar problem in Brazil with the Pinto? Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford renamed the automobile Corcel, meaning "horse".
Hunt-Wesson introduced Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos. Later they found out that in slang it means "big breasts".
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 ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "it won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". Instead, the company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant".
The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Ke-kou-ke-la", meaning "Bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect. Cokethen researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "ko-kou-ko-le", translating into "happiness in the mouth".
A few years ago, in the American Midwest, some people decided to show off their new "real" Mexican restaurant, named Chi-chi's to some visiting Californians. Upon seeing the name on the marquis, the Californians started to laugh. When asked why they were laughing, they explained that in Mexican Spanish, "chi-chi's" literally means "titties."