REAL-LIFE MISADVENTURES IN INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS
So it played in Peoria. Now, how will it play in Prague?
Chevrolet's sales of the Nova were dismal in Mexico where "no va" means "it doesn't go"
Some years ago, Pepsi Cola® found that in some foreign markets its theme "Come Alive" translated as "rise from the dead."
When John F. Kennedy spoke to throngs of Germans addressing them as "Berliners." the inflection he used was closer to that of a word meaning "jelly doughnut."
Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was mistranslated to read as "Suffer from diarrhea”.
Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick."
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem-Feeling Free" was translated into the Japanese market as "When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market that promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I saw the potato" (la papa).
In Italy, a campaign for “Tonic Water” was mistranslated as "Toilet Water."
When a pen manufacturer marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." Instead, the company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
And finally, not even Nike is exempt. Nike has a television commercial for hiking shoes that was shot in Kenya using Samburu tribesmen. The camera closes in on one tribesman who speaks in native Maa. As he speaks, the Nike slogan "Just do it" appears on the screen. Lee Cronk, an anthropologist at the University of Cincinnati, says the Kenyan is really saying "I don't want these. Give me big shoes". Says Nike's Elizabeth Dolan, "We thought nobody in America would know what he said.
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read English.
In Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."