3 (In)famous Marketing Translation Errors

Category: Marketing Translation

Some of our favorite blunders from global marketing campaigns:

  1. Translated literally into Chinese, KFC’s slogan “finger lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off.” Oops!
  2. Parker Pen’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” translated in Mexico: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” We sure hope not…
  3. IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, decided to call one of its new desks “FARTFULL.” Maybe not such a good idea.

It’s not just word translation errors, either. Not all pictures or symbols are interpreted the same across the world. For instance, staff at an African port saw the supposedly internationally recognized symbol for “fragile” (i.e. a stylized broken wine glass) and since they thought it was just a box of broken glass, they threw away all the boxes marked as such.

Lesson learned? Be wary of slogans and taglines. They are not only extremely challenging and time consuming to localize, but they may need to change significantly in the target language.

It’s very difficult to get a slogan to work across all markets, which is why a global slogan is rare. Even McDonald’s — one of the most “global” companies in the world — didn’t create their first global slogan “I’m Lovin’ It” until 2003, and it was kept in English for most countries.

For more helpful tips, see Top 10 Tips for Marketing Translation.