3 Translation Errors in Advertising

Adapting advertising for new languages and markets is one of the greatest translation challenges. An advertising slogan or marketing concept is carefully crafted to make a high-performance impact on the target audience. Advertising translation mistakes are expensive. Some people might say, “If it worked so well in one country, it should be easy enough use the same thing in others, right?”

It’s a disastrous mistake many companies make. Good advertising works because of the specific, targeted language. Slang, cultural references, puns or other high-level language work makes translating a marketing campaign literally a very bad idea. Here are three companies who tried anyway. As you will see, the results are definitely not what they were expecting.

Slang, cultural references, puns or other high-level language work makes translating a marketing campaign literally a very bad idea.

Not So Friendly

In North America, B&G Foods might not be a household name, but Green Giant is. The big, green, friendly human wearing only leaves as a loincloth has been an inviting icon for decades, entreating children to eat their vegetables. As happens in a globalized world, B&G eventually decided it was time to expand their operations and bring the fun of eating your vegetables with its mascot to the rest of the world. The person they approached to translate their marketing materials apparently had other ideas. Either there was simply a lack of care when it came time to translate and so a literal translation was used, or someone really didn’t like vegetables. Either way, North America’s Green Giant, when brought over to the Middle East, became the “Intimidating Green Monster” in Arabic. That’s not going to get any child to eat vegetables.

Loose Is Not Always Best

The Coors Light beer brand, made by Coors brewing company, is supposed to provide the satisfaction of drinking beer without all the calories—and attendant beer belly—that normally comes with this activity. Coors decided they also wanted to break out of the North American market, so they started targeting Spanish countries. They took their slogan at the time, “Turn it loose,” and decided to keep it for other countries. However, the American expression “turn it loose,” which implied dropping your restrictions, relaxing, and giving into your impulses to have a good time, became “Suffer from diarrhea” when it was translated into Spanish.

The Walking Soda

Pepsi is known and consumed the world over, so you’d think the soft drink company would be an old hand at coming up with global advertising slogans that would retain their context no matter where they went. That didn’t happen when their English “Come alive with Pepsi” slogan went across the Pacific and into China. Somehow, “Come alive with Pepsi,” which seems like a straightforward enough entreaty to enjoy more lively activity with your favorite soft drink, got translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.” Admittedly that’s a much more interesting claim for a soft drink company to make, but not exactly the kind of image you want to convey to the market at large. ITC Translation’s expert translators know that marketing and advertising translations require special skill and creativity so that a company’s message makes the right impact on customers.

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