With global brands, the issue of homogenization of the brand communication into the local language (specially in Latin Americac and East Asian countries) is of critical importance. But when such brands ignore proper research or are simply careless, the mistakes that happen are often quite hilarious, even though they are unintentional. Given below are ten such faux pas.

  • When Pepsi used their slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” in Taiwan by literally translating it, they didn’t know that the literal translation of the slogan meant, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”! They soon realized their mistake and the campaign didn’t last very long.
  • Coca Cola is famous for its mistakes in the eastern countries like China and Taiwan. In China, when Coca Cola had to translate its name in Mandarin, they chose ‘Ke-Kou-Ke-La’, very unwisely because it meant, “bite the wax tadpole” or “a female horse stuffed with wax”. Soon enough they realized their mistake and changed the translation to “ko-kou-ko-le” which meant “happiness in the mouth.” Not perfect, but much better than a wax tadpole!
  • Coke once again. In cuba, Coca Cola wanted to write “Tome Coca Cola” (drink Coca Cola) in the sky. Grand intentions there. Only they didn’t take into consideration the wicked wind which blew a letter of the sign and made it “Teme Coca Cola”, which meant “fear Coca Cola”. The company tried to rectify the mistake by producing a lithograph of bull fighting. Which turned out to be a bigger mistake because bull fighting is illegal in Cuba.
  • Chi Chi’s the Mexican food chain is of American origin. Perhaps that’s the reason why they didn’t know that Chi Chi’s in Mexican slang means breasts. Interestingly another company by the name Chi Chi’s makes salsa and has a slogan “good no matter what.” Of course!
  • Mensa, the international society of high IQ people, would probably find it difficult to be accepted in Spanish speaking countries. In Spanish, Mensa means “stupid woman”, quite the opposite of a regular Mensa member. Mensa comes from the Latin word for “table.” In German Mensa means “cafeteria”.
  • In 2002 KFC released their slogan “finger lickin’ good” in China. Unfortunately for them, even after research, they made a translated version which meant, “Eat your fingers off”.
  • After the huge success of “Got Milk” campaign, the Dairy Board of California decided to run these ads in Mexico. But they soon realized that the Spanish translation meant “are you lactating?” Coors, the beer company also made a similar mistake when they translated their slogan “turn it loose” into Spanish as “suffer from diarrhea.”
  • When the US baby foods company Gerber started selling their products in Africa, they adopted the same packaging design as in US, with beautiful pictures of babies on their labels. What they didn’t know was that in Africa, because of non English speaking population, it was standard practice for companies to put pictures of the product ingredients on the label.
  • In South America Ford started marketing its car “Pinto” in 1971. It was a small car that was supposed to compete with other imported small cars in the Latin American market. But the company soon realized that in spite of its best efforts the car was not selling as it should have. Turns out, in Brazil “Pinto” is a slang for small penis. Now who would pay money for that!
  • Another mistake in Latin America. This time it’s the Parker Company. While trying to market their leak proof pens, they  translated their line “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”, into something in Spanish which actually meant “it won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” The culprit was a single word. The company assumed “embarazar” meat “to embarrass”. But it actually meant “to impregnate”.


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