Fun Friday: Mistranslated Advertising

Today, we have a chance to laugh at the poor souls in marketing who weren’t quite thorough enough in their research before unleashing their slogans on the world – here are some of my favorites:

Bacardi invested huge amounts of marketing dollars to target their new drink spin off across Europe.  They named the drink Pavian.  Sadly, Pavian is translated to ‘baboon’ in German.

When Coca-Cola started selling to China many local shopkeepers attempted to create advertising using characters that sounded roughly like Coca-Cola when put together.  The resulting ‘Ke-kou-ke-la’ roughly means ‘bite the wax tadpole’ or ‘female horse stuffed with wax,’ depending on the dialect.  Coke found a better fit with the phonetic equivalent ‘Ko-kou-ko-le,’ which can be loosely translated as ‘happiness in the mouth.’

Coca-Cola wasn’t the only one to have issues in China.  Pepsi’s slogan ‘Pepsi gives you zest for life’ when directly translated became: ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.’

Jolly Green Giant turned into ‘Intimidating Green Monster’ when translated into Arabic.  As if feeding vegetables to kids wasn’t hard enough!

In areas were literacy is low, like Central Africa, it is common practice to put a picture on the label depicting what was inside the tin.  Imagine their horror when a case of Nestle Baby Milk showed up with a picture of a grinning baby on the label.

Ford’s advertising campaign in Belgium included the slogan ‘Every car has a high quality body’ to emphasize the excellent build quality.  This phrase translates to, ‘Every car has a high quality corpse.’

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend everybody, be safe, have fun!



About Jodi

I'm an aspiring novelist working in fantasy and suspense, for now. I also have two pretty awesome blogs! and
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8 Responses to Fun Friday: Mistranslated Advertising

  1. Heh. The Chevy Nova didn’t sell in Mexico. Why?
    No va. No go.

    • Paula says:

      Richard, do you have a blog? I’d love to read some of your writings, as you always have such great pithy comments that you manage to say in a few short words. If you haven’t guessed, I am about as wordy as they come! 😀

      • tsuchigari says:

        If you click on his name it will take you there, or click on his link in the sidebar on UphillWriting. He also writes for Eclectic Engine.

  2. Tsuchigari says:

    Yep, that one will be in the second installment. They renamed it the Caribe.

    • Paula says:

      I remember a Japanese company that was going to name one of their new car models the “Tsunami,” but on the heels of that disaster, decided otherwise! Not exactly the name translation problem, but a chuckle just the same (or a groan!). Richard mentioned the one that I knew – the Nova (a car I used to own – a 1968, and I wish I had kept it as it’s now considered a classic!).

      BUT: the BEST translation errors come in so-called instruction manuals, translated into English by foreigners (I hate that word, but what else is there?) who supposedly are fluent in English. They can be a riot, and David Sedaris gives a number of examples in his most recent collection “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” which mostly consists of observations he made in an extended trip to Japan. A definite MUST READ!

  3. nrhatch says:

    Love your Fun Friday posts . . . especially when language outsmarts PR men and marketeers!

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