We all love a good laugh and branding cockups don’t ever fail to deliver. I bet the new brand decision makers for these well-known brand names most certainly weren’t too happy – but it’s great entertainment for us. Who in their right mind would name their company ‘F***ing Hell’ – I kid you not. Read on to find out about that and many other hilarious branding cock-ups.
Baniff translated a slogan claiming finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather”. When this was translated into Spanish it comes out as “Fly Naked.”Clairol
Clairol marketed a curling iron as “Mist Stick”. Unfortunately “mist” in German is a slang word for manure.
When Colgate launched a product in France it decided upon the name brand name “Cue”. Unfortunately if they had done their market research they would have realised that “Cue” is also the name of a French pornographic magazine. This must have caused confusion for customers shopping in the supermarket when asking for Cue to brush their teeth with.
The well known American beer brand Coors suffered an unfortunate mishap when it launched it’s product in Spain. Their marketing team chose the slogan “turn it loose” which in Spain is a colloquial term for diarrhoea.
World famous vacuum cleaner manufacturer Electrolux chose the slogan “Nothing suck like an Electrolux” when they launched their product in America. Of course sucks is a reference in American slang that means bad or poor. Of course this is also considered and urban legend of translation but would still be funny if it were true!
Ford launched a car in Brazil called the Ford Pinto. Unfortunately in Brazillian Portuguese Pinto also means “tiny male genitals”
American meat processing and poultry farming company Perdue Farms used the slogan “it takes a tough man to make tender chicken” to try and appeal to some of the masculine male customers in Spain. However when this slogan is translated into Spanish it comes through as “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate”.
Everyone knows Ikea right? Ikea is a world recognised furniture store that began in Sweden. However when they launched in Thailand they didn’t realise that some of their Swedish names mean “sex” or “third base” in Thai. Also in China Ikea’s Chinese website advertised a stuffed wolf toy called Lufsig, or Lo Mo Sai (路姆西). This unfortunately contained a homophobe of Hai (閪), a profane Cantonese word meaning “vagina”. The name itself could be written as Lo Mo Hai (老母閪) which means “mothers Vagina”.
Fast food restaurant chain KFC made some Chinese customers feel uncomfortable or just confused with their slogan “finger licking good”. When the restaurant chain launched in China their slogan translated to “eat your fingers off”.
Mercedes Benz launched in China under the brand name “Bensi”. Which in China means “rush to die”.
Sportswear manufacturer Nike was forced to recall thousands of it’s products when the design on some of it’s products was deemed too similar to the Arabic word for Allah.
Electrical giant Panasonic launched a new web ready PC using a Woody Woodpecker theme. Not too bad in itself except the slogan they used was “Touch Woody : The Internet Ready Pecker”.
The makers of premium pens Parker Pens launched in Mexico using it’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Unfortunately this was mistranslated as “It won’t leak in your product and make you pregnant.
Iranian consumer goods company Paxam marketed it laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow”. This resulted in packaging been labelled as “Barf Soap”.
American branded Puffs Facial Tissues, from Procter and Gamble, entered into the German market. Unfortunately they didn’t realise that “Puff” is a German slang word for brothel.
The American Dairy Association used it’s slogan “Got Milk?” as it’s slogan in Spanish speaking markets. This was translated as “Are you lactating?”. Bit of a personal question don’t you think?
Procter and Gamble brand Vicks moved into the German market with it’s cough drops. In German the pronunciation of “V” is actually “F” which made “Vick” slang for sexual intercourse in Germany.
When the name of the Toyota MR2 is pronounced in French it is phonetically similar to “mede” in French, which is their word for “shit”.
Motoring manufacturer Mitsubishi found that their Pajero product name as the same as the Spanish word for “wanker” when they launched in Spain.
Japanese motor company Honda initially launched their Honda Jazz as the Honda Fitta. However when their marketing team contacted their Swedish office with the name they found out that Fitta is a slang word for “vagina” in Swedish and Norwegian. They promptly decided on the Jazz although Japan kept the “Fit” brand for it’s home market.
I know what your thinking. How rude. How profane. However Fucking Hell is the name of a German Pilsner beer brewed in Germany. When they launched the brand in 2010 they upset the European Union due to the nature of the word and it’s expletive nature in the English language. However the brand name refers to an actual town in Austria which is in fact called Fucking whereas as Hell in Germany refers to pale lager. They launched an appeal against the original EU decision to disallow this name and they won.
Below is a short list of some actual products that are available on sale in various countries. Are they marketing mistakes or are they genius in advertising? Decide for yourselves!
- Crapsy Fruit, a French breakfast cereal
Alu-Fanny, a French aluminium foil
Atum Bom, a Portuguese brand of tinned tuna
Kack, Danish confectionery
Plopp, a Swedish chocolate bar
Mukk, an Italian yogurt
Bimbo, a brand of bread in Spain and the Americas
Slag, a Belgian lager
Kum Onit, a German make of pencil sharpeners
- Pschitt, a French fizzy soft drink
Food for thought
How much do you think the ‘cock-ups’ cost each company? Get in touch with us for professional translations, that are localised and right on the mark – every time!