When you're globalizing a brand, it's always a good idea to check whether your name, logo, or tag line means something different in the regions where you're expanding. Here are the 20 worst examples that neglected this crucial marketing step:
Braniff International translated a slogan touting its finely upholstered seats "Fly in Leather" into Spanish as "Fly Naked." Clairol launched a curling iron called "Mist Stick" in Germany even though "mist" is German slang for manure. Coca-Cola's brand name, when first marketed in China, was sometimes translated as "Bite The Wax Tadpole." Colgate launched toothpaste in France named "Cue" without realizing that it's also the name of a French pornographic magazine. Coors translated its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it is a colloquial term for having diarrhea. Electrolux at one time marketed its vacuum cleaners in the U.S. with the tag line: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." Ford blundered when marketing the Pinto in Brazil because the term in Brazilian Portuguese means "tiny male genitals." Frank Perdue's tag line, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got translated into Spanish as "It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate." Gerber marketed baby food in Africa with a cute baby on the label without knowing that, in Ethiopia, for example, products usually have pictures on the label of what's inside since many consumers can't read. Ikea products were marketed in Thailand with Swedish names that in the Thai language mean "sex" and "getting to third base." KFC made Chinese consumers a bit apprehensive when "finger licking good" was translated as "eat your fingers off." Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name "Bensi," which means "rush to die." Nike had to recall thousands of products when a decoration intended to resemble fire on the back of the shoes resembled the Arabic word for Allah. Panasonic launched a Web-ready PC with a Woody Woodpecker theme using the slogan "Touch Woody: The Internet Pecker." Parker Pen, when expanding into Mexico, mistranslated "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you" into "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant." Paxam, an Iranian consumer goods company, markets laundry soap using the Farsi word for "snow," resulting in packages labeled "Barf Soap." Pepsi's slogan "Pepsi Brings You Back to Life" was debuted in China as "Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave." Puffs marketed its tissues under that brand name in Germany even though "puff" is German slang for a brothel. The American Dairy Association replicated its "Got Milk?" campaign in Spanish-speaking countries where it was translated into "Are You Lactating?" Vicks introduced its cough drops into the German market without realizing that the German pronunciation of "v" is "f" making "Vicks" slang for sexual intercourse.
BTW, you may have noticed that the most famous translation blunder--Chevy "Nova" translated into Spanish as "Won't Go"--isn't on the list. It's an urban myth.