10 Global Branding Fails that Occurred Due to Language Translation
In order to have a brand reach a new market in a different country, the local language has to be used. However, as you know, translation doesn’t always go according to plan. On the contrary, in some situations, the translation is so wrong that the new market will be put off by the brand, rather than being attracted to it.
This is why business translation services need to be very careful and proofread their translations. Otherwise, the translation will only be against the brand. Are you curious to see how wrong translation can go, and why proofreading is so important? Here are 10 fails in global branding that happened due to bad translation.
You might be in love with these cars, but you can safely say the Chinese weren’t too happy when these cars were advertised as deadly. When Mercedes Benz entered the Chinese market, their name had to be translated. The problem was the fact that the translation was “Bensi” which, in Chinese, means “Rush to die”. Now that’s really not a great way to advertise a brand, especially given what they’re offering.
Thankfully, as soon as they noticed the mistake, the company changed the translation to “Benchi”, meaning “run quickly as if flying”.
Don’t you just love opening a cold Coca-Cola can during a hot summer day? Well, when the famous drink got marketed in China in 1927, people weren’t too happy to get a drink named “Bite the Wax Tadpole”. You can only imagine what people would’ve thought if the name wasn’t changed.
It seems that Pepsi is another drink with a bad translation, only this time it was the slogan that took the bad luck. The mistranslation happened in China once again, with Pepsi’s slogan that was “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life”. The translation went like “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”. Whereas it’s not uncommon for brands to make promises they can’t fulfill, this one was clearly over the top. The Chinese surely weren’t fond of seeing corpses wandering the street either.
KFC has become a very loved brand thanks to its spicy products and not only. But they didn’t always have it good. A mistranslation occurred, once again, in – you guessed it – China. The translation for “finger-licking food” went over the top, going like “eat your fingers off”. It would have been, once again, an exaggerated promise about how good the food is going to be, but in a horror way.
Vicks didn’t have it good when being introduced into the German market. The reason is the fact that “v” is pronounced as “f” in German, which would then translate to slang for sexual intercourse. It’s not pleasant having your brand associated with something inappropriate when you’re trying to be serious.
IKEA has made mistakes plenty of times with product names. When marketing in Thailand, Swedish names have been used. The problem was that many of the names translated to things such as “getting to third base” and “sex”.
Do you love Nike products? Then you should especially be aware of this problem the brand has dealt with a while ago. The company has released some shoes with a fire emblem on their back. However, the problem came into play when they found out the fire looked like the Arabic word for Allah, so the brand had to recall a lot of shoe pairs.
Parker pens have made their way to Mexico, but initially with a bad, misleading and quite funny translation. The slogan of the brand was “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. God knows how the translator has gotten from that slogan to “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
Ford cars have a long history behind them, and their cars are loved to this day. So, the company launched the Pinto in Brazil a while ago. Nevertheless, not everyone was happy about it, because the term translates to “tiny male genitals” in Brazilian Portuguese. You can only imagine how marketing went.
When Colgate launched a toothpaste in France, they decided to name it “Cue”. However, they should have made some research about French, and find out that there is a French pornographic magazine with the same name. Marketing the toothpaste must have been a real challenge.
As you can see, the wrong translation, even the smallest one, can have a huge negative impact on a brand, and impact marketing. For this reason, all brands should make enough research about a new market before launching a product, not to mention having a good translator and, of course, proofreading their translation beforehand. That way, bad translations can be avoided.