LOST IN TRANSLATION

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 7.07.11
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COCA COLA

When the beverage major entered the Chinese market, its priority lay in coining an indigenous name that would phonetically sound like the brand. They came up with ‘Ke-kou-ke-la’. The only hitch? It translated to ‘Bite the wax tadpole’! Coke finally settled for ‘Ko-kou-ko-le’ meaning ‘Happiness in the mouth’.mouth."

KFC

When they opened an outlet in Beijing in the mid-1980s, KFC had to translate the winning slogan ‘Finger lickin’ good’ into the native language. An advertising creative took the meaning literally and came up with a slogan that read ‘We’ll eat your fingers off’! Needless to say, KFC didn’t go down well in China.

PARKER PENS

Parker Pens uses the slogan ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you’. However, the premium pen company was severely embarrassed in Spain when it used the wrong choice of words to translate its winning slogan. The result? ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant’.

Vicks

When Vicks first introduced its cough drops in the German market, they were shocked to learn that the German pronunciation of “V” was “F,” which in German became the guttural equivalent of“sexual penetration”. Deep throat?

BACARDI

Bacardi spent huge amounts of money launching its Pavian brand across Europe, targeted at the young and funky crowd. But Pavian means ‘baboon’ in German.

VAUXHALL

Motor major Vauxhall spent a fortune launching their Nova model in the Spanish market, overlooking the fact that in Spanish ‘No va’ means ‘won’t move’. Now, who would want to buy a car that doesn’t move?

pepsi

Pepsi’s early experience in the Chinese market was no better than that of Coca Cola’s. The company translated its successful ‘Pepsi gives you zest for life’ literally into Chinese. Guess what it translated into? ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’!

FORD

When Ford launched an advertising campaign in Belgium talking about the excellent build quality of their vehicles, the headline ‘Every car has a high quality body’ came out as ‘Every car has a high quality corpse’. They were so dead!

STARBUCKS

A couple of years ago, thousands of posters were printed in Germany inviting coffee lovers to ‘Enjoy your morning Latte’.The only problem? In German, ‘Latte’ is slang for erection. Hard luck!