Marketing translation fails: a good laugh at your expense

Marketing translation fails: a good laugh at your expense

Nowadays, companies are doing business far away from their headquarters, in remote countries with different traditions, languages and cultures. Fortunately, many of the companies that have ventured beyond the confines of their traditional markets have realised that simply replicating what works ‘at home’ is not enough. As the world becomes more connected and business grows global, organisations are starting to see the pivotal role that translation plays in their growth , and have integrated it as one of the basic elements in their international marketing campaigns. Translation, localisation and transcreation have now become vital for international marketing campaigns to result in net sales, but the journey to get to this point has been long and has involved many painful slips, trips and falls. Small and large organisations have had to learn the hard way how embarrassing translation mistakes can be, and even if in most cases they’ve given their target audience a good laugh, the joke has come at a considerable price. Here are 4 marketing translation blunders that have made marketing directors’ cheeks turn crimson.

Every car has a high-quality corpse

Ford, wanting to underscore its cars’ excellent manufacturing, launched an ad campaign with a slogan that read: “Every car has a high-quality body”. In the translation of this phrase, ‘body’ was interpreted as ‘corpse’. Ford’s campaign stopped dead in its tracks.

Eat your fingers off

KFC is renowned for its fantastic slogan ‘finger-licking good’. And surely, wherever you are in the world, licking your fingers after having chicken wings is a good sign? Well… not if it is translated into chewing your own fingers, those horror movie scenes will probably not spark consumers’ appetites.

Honda vagina and Mazda the whore

The Honda Jazz was originally called Honda Fitta. Fortunately, Honda’s Swedish office was quick to point out that ‘fitta’ is a slang word for vagina in Swedish and Norwegian. Mazda took a scare too when it found out that rather than referring to a fictional flying island in Gulliver’s Travels, Laputa invokes totally different images in Spanish.

Schweppes toilet water

In Italy, the campaign for “Schweppes tonic water” was translated into the not so attractive “Schweppes toilet water”. Italian consumers were probably looking for other ways to quench their thirst (although some dogs probably enthused about this tag line)

And the need for quality translations does not stop at marketing. It is obvious that whatever the nature is of the information you share across countries and languages, it must be correct, coherent and appealing. Whether it concerns labels, a manual, product information, or social media conversations, everything you share will contribute to your company image, or damage it, if you don’t manage it well. In the field of marketing, being funny can definitely yield good results, but only if you do it deliberately. Translation mistakes and cultural blunders are like jokes turned sour, in the end, the joke will be on you.

So next time you need to have something translated, take the time to go through the whole process and make sure that you:

  1. Work with a reliable Language Service Provider
  2. Determine whether your text needs translation, localisation or transcreation
  3. Have your material proofread by locals before it goes to market

Our global team of translators, localisation professionals and transcreators will make sure that your message is understood and that it hits home. They have full access to the Presence translation platform and its wide array of linguistic tools and technical support. With their expertise and the power of our technical tools, we guarantee that your message will hit the mark, even in the farthest outposts of your business geography.

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