10 International Marketing Campaigns that failed to translate

by Josh Biggs in Marketing on 14th February 2019

The success of every single company planning to expand to the international market is decided by how well customers will welcome the brand. In the past, most companies who have engaged themselves in this process have learned the hard way, making it hard for them to execute easy cross-cultural campaigns as translating text from one language to the other becomes difficult. They have also understood how document translation services can help overcome language barriers and grow internationally.

Before you embark on expanding your market to the international market, it is crucial you consider some key factors that will allow the business to flourish. So it is a common thing when companies hire custom thesis writing service to create really good selling text. You must consider the cultural values of the region, their norms, etiquette, humor and slang when establishing a brand presence for international audiences. Admittedly, the process is expected to take some time, considerable research and some other resources as the global market are becoming increasingly crucial.

Take note that a product is accessible in one particular country does not guarantee it will transcend in the global markets. In the absence of a qualified cultural aware team, it becomes a big issue when trying to recreate messages that feel authentic and resonates with a foreign audience. Creating an awareness or advertisement for global universal use doesn’t work, for example, if a company is targeting Africa as its market and fails to consider the cultural value of the particular country it’s trying to focus, the business will fail.

In this wise let’s take a look at 10 International Marketing Campaigns that failed to translate. If you are looking for an agency that can do a successful international marketing campaign, take a look at these marketing services.


Pepsi is a favorite brand in the world just as coca cola when introduced to the Chinese market they came up with the slogan “Pepsi Brings you back to life.” Unfortunately for them, they did not know the slogan would make an entirely different meaning to the public translating to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” What a blunder in a country reference for ancestors has a significant impact on their culture. For such a market, such errors brought a negative impression to the people about Pepsi.


As a common market for automobiles, Ford introduced its brand to Brazil’s automobile market. A new brand name pinto was introduced and got no sales; the company was worried why such is happening and took steps to investigate all to realize that the brand name Pinto translates to slang in Brazil for males with tiny genitals. The company made a quick step, removed all the nameplates and changed them to read Corcel which means horse.


Just as some other favorite companies who did not take their time to make research made mistakes, fried chicken franchise KFC took off on the wrong foot when they tried to open their outlets in China in the late 1980s. As the company began its first outlet in Beijing, KFC accidentally translated its slogan “Finger Lickin” to good to eat your fingers off. At the end of the catastrophe, the company was lucky to overcome the mistake, and now it’s the number one restaurant in China with more than 4,400 branches in more than 850 cities in China.


The famous American beer maker also had its side of the mistake even though their own was not direct but happened as a result of language translation. “Turn it Loose” was their slang and when translated to Spanish gives an expression commonly interpreted to Suffer from diarrhea. Steps were taken quickly to change the slogan for the Spaniards not to feel bad.


Committing blunders are not only limited to United States companies, but Electrolux is also a Swedish vacuum maker who got a quick lesson in English slang when introduced its product to the American market. The company thought it was highlighting its vacuum’s high power with its slang nothing sucks like Electrolux. Even though the slogan is grammatically correct, it never really took off with U.S Shoppers.


Some companies sometimes fall into problems overseas not because of what they say but how they present it to the public. Proctor and Gamble were the sellers of Pampers diapers in Japan; the product used an image of a stork delivering a baby on the packaging. U.S users don’t in any way have a problem with this, but the Japanese parents were not comfortable with the logo. Efforts were made to change the logo so it can give a different meaning to the public.

Braniff Airlines

Braniff Airlines got into a problem in the year 1987, when it started hyping it new leather seat south of the border of the United States with the slogan that matches the campaign ongoing in the U.S “Fly in Leather” meanwhile it has a Spanish translation “Vuela en Cuero” meaning fly naked. The translation is appealing to some travelers while it was far from the message revealed to foreigners.


HSBC never had any option than to rebrand its entire branding operations after bringing a U.S campaign overseas. In 2009, the world most popular international bank spent millions of dollars worldwide on scrapping it popular five years old slogan “Assume Nothing.” Why is because as the slogan was taken overseas and translates to something worse meaning “Do nothing.” The company had no choice than to spend an average of $10 million to change its tagline to “The world’s private bank” which has a more faithful translation.


In a bid to expand its business, Pepsodent a toothpaste producing company took its products to Asia emphasizing that it whitens the teeth. The product could not gain grand as the locals prefer to go with their local chews betel nut which blackens their teeth, and unfortunately, they find it attractive.


Honda is an automobile producing company who decided to keep the name Fitta when they introduced their products to Sweden. Later they got to know that Fitta is an old word used to refer to women’s genital in Sweden, Norway, and Danish. Honda has decided to change the name to Honda Jazz which the people are comfortable using.

Naturally, making mistakes with slogans is not usually intentional among companies. But for the fact that there are cultural and language differences among tribes in the world, a certain slogan is bound to create problems overseas. Remember that knowing how to speak two different words does not connote knowing how to translate them effectively, here is a list of interpretation mistakes that can help you avoid similar problems while you try to promote your product overseas.

Categories: Marketing