When it comes to advertising, sometimes the biggest names can make small but hilarious mistakes. We all have our selected ads that we like to watch continuously. Sometimes we like the ads so much that we memorize their words or letters. But what really makes an ad stand out? Is it the product being shown or is it the catchphrase? Are these slogans what make or break a product and determine its sale? It’s how these ads can connect with consumers and entice them to buy the items. Although ads are sometimes catchy in English, they can be bizarrely strange in another language. Let’s take a look at the 10 strangest ad translations.
One of the biggest soft drink brands, Coca-Cola began its reign in China with a big laugh. When it arrived in the country, the brand was pronounced as “ke-kou-ke-la” which translates to “bite the wax tadpole” as seen here. This obviously made no sense and had no connection with the drink. In another dialect, it is also read as “female horse stuffed with wax”. I don’t think that’s what we expect when we open a cold can of Coke. Realizing the confusion with the translation, they decided to change the phonetics to “ko-kou-ko-le”. It looked similar, but it didn’t change the hilarity of the situation. That meant “happiness in the mouth” which was more or less what we expected from Coca-Cola, but it could also be related to something outside of “Fifty Shades of Gray”.
The pen gurus, Parker, have been in the game for many years and are almost always on top. Well, I said ALMOST. When they were campaigning for their leak-proof pen brand, their famous slogan said “It won’t leak in your pocket and it will embarrass you”. True enough for most users and simple enough for everyone who speaks English. But take that statement and translate it into Spanish and guess what you found out? “It won’t leak into your pocket and make you pregnant.” If that’s not confusing enough, I don’t know what it is. What is the need for contraceptives when you have the right Parker pen? Parker, as a brand around the world, didn’t know what was wrong and so they just changed it to make it easier for everyone.
8. Braniff Airlines
During 1977, Braniff Airlines installed exclusive leather seats for first class passengers only. To attract passengers; They wrote a slogan that said “Fly in leather”. In English, it is devilishly direct and attractive to all frequent fliers. As one of the best airlines in the world, people expected superior comfort and that is what they achieved. But when the slogan was translated into Spanish, read as “Vuela en cuero” or, for the English-speaking people, “Fly naked”, the company gave a great laugh about it. Obviously, this wreaked havoc in the airways, and fortunately, people did not undress and put on their birthday suits on the way. We know that airlines strive for the best comfort, but what they offer in Spanish would take that to another level.
7. Ford Pinto
Ford has always been one of the best in the automotive sector, just like today. They started the era of cheap cars so that most people could afford to have one. But sometimes the best ones also make mistakes. In 1971, Ford launched the super compact seller, Pinto. The car was successfully sold in the United States, but the company noticed a very low sales rate in Brazil. They were unable to find out why this was happening until they realized that Pinto, in Brazil, meant “small male genitals”. Now, who would want to buy this right? What confused people even more was that Ford, the auto company, sold the “Pinto”.
One of the biggest brands of tissue paper, Puffs are favorites in the United States of America. After realizing that the product was doing so well in the country, they decided to export it to the world. It was a brilliant idea until the product reached Europe, that is, Germany. The company hit a brick wall here. The word “Puff” is another word for “brothel” or “brothel” in German. It goes without saying that the product did not take off instantly as in the rest of the world. Also in England, a word that sounds similar, “Pouf”, is slang for “homosexual”. It’s not something you want to clean your face with, I’m sure.
Another great story from China and again has to do with soft drinks. This time it is Pepsi, another giant of the beverage fraternity and closest competitor to Coca-Cola. When they launched their campaign and product in China, their unique slogan was “We bring you back to life”. It was something new and it seemed very invigorating. But in Chinese, it takes on another meaning that literally scares people. “We bring your ancestors back from the grave” is what comes out of his slogan. Scary, funny or long-awaited? The choice is yours, but reading something like this would definitely not compare to a soft drink. Pepsi decided to run with him knowing that it would draw attention to its brand.
Have you heard of “Got Milk”? If you did, you would know that it was one of the largest advertising campaigns for the American Dairy Association in America. The ads went viral in a few days, and that success helped the company export its campaign to countries around the world. When “Got Milk” arrived in Spanish-speaking countries, those two simple words became three extremely personal words. The slogan says “You’re breastfeeding” in Spanish, which left women a little offended, but it also gave the company a laugh. Although the two slogans are somewhat related, the latter is a little more personal than most women would like.
As a company that markets hair products, Clairol was doing very well in the United States of America. The reason is that they offered quality products at reasonable prices. Because of this success, they introduced a curling iron in 2006 and called it “Mist Stick”, which did exceptionally well in the country. But when they took the product to Germany, it did not go as well as they thought. Apparently, “fog” in German means “manure”. So basically, people were seeing the “manure stick” in cosmetic stores across the country. Who would want one of these and what would they actually use it for? Hilarious when you really imagine.
Coors, a giant in beer production, is one of the largest companies in the United States and also in the rest of the world. Its beer is sold in almost all restaurants, pubs and stores. The ad’s slogan, “Turn it Loose” was a great success in the country, but unfortunately it was the only native English-speaking country to have had its campaign. When they took their “Turn It Loose” to Spanish-speaking countries, “They suffer from diarrhea” is what they left (not literally). Although some people say that the Spanish translation is not very accurate for what they get from drinking Coors. In any case, Coors did not expect something like this and was forced to change it immediately.
Since we started this list in China, it seems appropriate that we end up in the big country. In 1987, in Beijing, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first store in the country. They knew it would be an instant hit because of their reputation as “fast food kings” and along with their catchy slogan, “licking your finger, well,” there was only one way and that was up. But what they didn’t realize is that they would make a big mistake and translate the slogan “Let’s eat your fingers” into Chinese. I’m sure the residents stayed away from KFC for a few weeks for fear of losing their digits. So, was that what Colonel Sanders had in his secret herbs and spices? No wonder it has always been kept secret.
These ten brands believed that adding catch phrases to their products would bring them fame, and in most cases, that happened. The only problem was when translated into other languages, their advertising campaigns came back to haunt them. In all, some of the brands mentioned above have changed their slogans to better serve all countries and some of them have not, in order to attract more attention. So, as you can see, even big guns tend to miss (sometimes in another language).