It can be a concern that when needing a voice over in a language you don’t understand, that the end product could be “lost in translation”. Even though globalization has made the world smaller and more accessible, it has also made it important to understand new cultures and their preferences.

So, when promoting in new markets, checking whether your brand name, tagline or marketing message means something different than in your home market is important. You don’t want your brand name or product associated with something negative, or that it becomes a joke name. Even worse, running the risk of offending people – just because of a poor cultural and/or language translation.  Here are some light-hearted examples of embarrassing brand blunders.

  • When Pepsico promoted Pepsi in Taiwan with the message “Come alive with Pepsi”, they didn’t know that it would be translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.”
  • The campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water in Italy was translated into “Schweppes Toilet Water” – Guessing they didn’t sell a lot of these.
  • When Swedish Electrolux marketed its vacuum cleaners in the U.S. market, they thought they were highlighting their vacuum’s high power and centered the campaign around the tag line: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Oops.
  • When the fried chicken franchise KFC opened in China, their tagline slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated into “Eat your fingers off”
  • The Brewing Company Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose” was translated into “Suffer from diarrhea” in Spanish – This one is probably even worse than Schweppes Toilet water!
  • When Mitsubishi launched the rover vehicle ‘Pajero 4WD’ in Spain, they found out too late that the word ‘Pajero’ means ‘jerk’ in Spanish – they later changed the name of the car to Mitsubishi Montero.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France with the name Cue – it turned out that Cue is also the name of a French ill-famed porno magazine.
  • The French company Groupe Bel introduced “Kiri”, a brand of cheese, which was renamed to “Kibi” in the Iranian market because in Persian the word “kiri” refers to the penis, but is also used to describe something rotten or rank.
  • Vicks introduced its cough drops into the German market without realizing that the German pronunciation of “v” is “f”, making “Vicks” a slang for sexual intercourse.
  • Finally, when Coca Cola first entered the Chinese market their name was read as ‘Ke-kou-ke-la’ meaning ‘bite the wax tadpole’ or ‘Female horse stuffed with wax’ depending on the dialect.