11 examples of what can go wrong in translation of marketing materials
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Do you know what your business slogans are saying to the world?

mistakeWith advances within social media and technology, word of mouth truly has become ‘world of mouth.’ Most businesses centralize their global Twitter and Facebook efforts. It has huge benefits, yet it also is vital that you have involvement at a local level; from those who really understand the marketplace language and nuances. We reside within a global economy and therefore it is critical that we have an understanding of our world. Here are 11 examples of translations of marketing material that went wrong:

  1. The successful ‘Got Milk’ campaign that came from The Dairy Association as utilized in Mexico brought lots of attention, as it translated into ‘Are You Lactating?’
  2. The company Coors Brewing’s campaign slogan ‘Turn it loose’ as converted to Spanish actually means ‘Suffer from diarrhea’.
  3. Clairol introduced a curling iron named ‘Mist Stick’ within Germany. Mist in German will be slang for manure. It turned out that manure sticks are not popular in Germany.
  4. Panasonic and Matsushita were to introduce a computer that had an Internet browser within Japan. They were supposed to run a massive marketing campaign utilizing Woody Woodpecker, the cartoon character. Their campaign was placed on hold as an American worker figured out that the translation actually was ‘Touch Woody – Internet Pecker.’ It’s bad in American slang.
  5. In China, Pepsi translated their campaign slogan, ‘Pepsi will Bring You Back to Life.’ In Chinese, this slogan means, ‘Pepsi will Bring Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.’
  6. In France, Colgate introduced toothpaste underneath the name Cue. That is, unfortunately, the exact same name as one ill-famed porno magazine.
  7. In Mexico, Parker Pen wanted its ads to parlay ‘It will not leak in your pocket and embarrass you.’ The company instead believed that the term ‘embarazar’ (to impregnate) was supposed to mean to embarrass, therefore the advertisement stated: ‘It will not leak inside your pocket and make you pregnant.’
  8. Frank Perdue’s statement, ‘It will take a rough man to make a tender chicken,’ is somewhat different within the Spanish language – ‘It will take a sexually stimulated male in order to make a chicken affectionate.’
  9. Braniff Airways had a desire to spotlight ‘Fly in Leather’ yet in Spanish it actually said ‘Fly Naked.’
  10. A Scandinavian vacuum cleaner, Electrolux, utilized the following within the United States: ‘Nothing will suck like an Electrolux.’
  11. In Southeast Asia, Pepsi lost its market share as it changed its vending machines from a deep blue to a light blue. Unfortunately, in Southeast Asia, light blue includes a symbol of mourning and death.

The lesson to be learned here is that mistranslations are sloppy marketing. Therefore, when translating your marketing material or anything business related, it is best to contact a professional translator. A professional translator will ensure that everything that is presented to the public is appropriate and suitable for the intended audience.

If you are marketing to Sweden, contact Swedish Translation Services to make sure that your slogans and marketing materials come across as intended.

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.

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