You may have the product to die for and marketing budgets that your competitors can only dream of, but that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the potential pitfalls of translation.
Just because a campaign has worked in one country, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be a roaring success in another. Without proper localisation, campaign messages can get lost in translation or, even worse, be turned into something completely irrelevant and/or offensive, which can land a stinging sucker punch to both your profits and brand reputation.
That being said, such translation mishaps have provided us with quite a few laughs down the years. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at 5 of the funniest epic marketing translation fails:
It might mean “snow” in Farsi, but “Barf” isn’t exactly the first thing which an English-speaking audience associates with cleanliness. Evidently Iranian company Paxam didn’t get the memo that this word means “vomit” in English when they introduced their Barf detergent to foreign markets.
Whilst Nike might be known for their memorable marketing campaigns, this translation clanger from 2016 was definitely one to forget. In an attempt to ingratiate themselves with Chinese customers, they presented new Special Edition Air Force 1 sneakers, which could be customized with two hieroglyphs 發 (‘fa’) and 福 (‘fu’).
So, what’s the problem, you ask? Well, when read together, this phrase says “get fat” rather than Nike’s famous “just do it” slogan!
Although HSBC were known as “the world’s local bank” for years, they famously dropped the ball with the translation of their tagline “assume nothing”, which became “do nothing” in a number of languages. It might not be the call to action that inspires customers to use your services, but it never fails to make us chuckle!
Chances are that when you think of the Green Giant, you think of a kind, jolly man who is all too happy to share his canned and frozen vegetables with hungry consumers. However, that’s not the case everywhere as the Jolly Green Giant was initially translated into Arabic as “intimidating green ogre”.
Whilst it’s hardly the image of friendliness they wanted to convey, who knows? Maybe he at least scared a few kids into eating their vegetables.
Whilst for English speakers, the word “mist” conjures up alluring images of mystery, this isn’t the case in Germany, as Irish Mist found out to their cost. The company marketed their drink as “Irischer Mist“, which means “Irish Dung” in German, which is hardly a drink you’d like to relax with after a long, hard day at work.
As if that’s not funny enough, Clairol also encountered a similar issue with their “Mist Stick” curling iron for obvious reasons.
At ICS-translate, we appreciate just how important localisation is to reaching your intended audience. With our expert team of native-speaker linguists you can be sure that your message will be conveyed perfectly, no matter what your target market. Сontact us for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org.