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
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the
US, with the beautiful 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
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke- kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke
company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase
means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax"
depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close
phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as
"Happiness in the mouth."
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi
Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the
Also 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," got
translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed
that your mind seems to be free and empty."
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign:
"Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware
that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it
wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that
Punto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford pried all the
nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It
won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the company's mistakenly
thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that
"It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted
the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts
proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."
Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender
chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with
one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained
"It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused."
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding
out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In this case, however, the
name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno mag.
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet
Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking
markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the
owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.