6 Marketing Goof-Ups by Major Companies

Lost in Translation

Marketing is two parts art, two parts science–no one really knows with certainty what will work and what won’t work. Sure big companies have the luxury of testing ads with target audiences before they run them. Small and medium size companies don’t have that luxury. And when it comes to multi-cultural marketing, you have to be even more careful because even the big guys make mistakes here.  Much of the time, it comes down to simple errors of translation that disconnect the brand or product from its market.  Even if you’re a small company, it really pays to consult someone who is highly familiar with, if not native to, the cultural market you want to go into. And learning from the faux pas below, and never use an internet translator or dictionary to translate your precious branding!  


Now feast your eyes on these 6 mistakes (of a multitude) made by some of the biggest companies in the world, and enjoy a chuckle.



1. Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.”

2. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

3. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Not only is this potentially insensitive racially, they later learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since most people can’t read.

4. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called “Cue”–the name of a notorious porn magazine!

5. Pepsi’s translation of their slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation,” was ultimately interpreted as, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave,” in Chinese.

6. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Instead, the company made a Spanish 101 mistake, thinking that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

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