Marketing Flops - Actual Accounts
an international market is a goal of most growing corporations. It shouldn't
be that hard, yet even the big multi-nationals run into trouble because of language
and cultural differences. For example...
name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the
Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed
that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse
stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000
Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le,"
which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."
Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi
Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from
in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good"
came out as "eat your fingers off."
American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free," got
translated in the Japanese market into "Whensmoking Salem, you feel so
refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently
unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company
figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish
markets to the Caribe.
had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out
that Pinto was Brazilian slang for"tiny male genitals". Ford pried
all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say
"It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the company's
mistakenly thought the spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead
the ads said that "It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the spanish market which
promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope"
in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."
Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,"
got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with
one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that
explained "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused."
introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding
out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In this case,
however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno
Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes
second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking
markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out
why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.
an effort to boost orange juice sales in predominantly continental breakfast
eating England, a campaign was devised to extoll the drink's eye-opening, pick-me-up
qualities. Hence, the slogan, "Orange juice. It gets your pecker up."