Lost in Translation? Advertising Translation Fails

It can’t have been the response Apple were hoping for but the iPhone 4S’s marquee feature , Siri, has raised one or two giggles over in Japan as the word “Siri” is very close to the Japanese word for “buttocks”.

Inspired by this latest translation fail, we take a look at a few more examples of international marketing mistakes.

Vauxhall Nova is a non-mover in Spain

It’s bad enough when a brand name can raise a few awkward laughs in the boardroom, but Vauxhall had to rethink their strategy entirely upon the marketing of their Nova model in Spain. The literal translation of ‘Nova’ in Spanish is “it won’t go” – not exactly the message they were looking for. The Nova was eventually sold as the Corsa in Spain.

Pepsi’s Secret Weapon in the Cola Wars…Zombies

When consumers were told to “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation”, it’s doubtful that Pepsi Co was also referring to those who had come and gone before. When translating, it’s important to remember that some of the nuances and oddities of the English language can mean very different things in other countries. That was very much the case for prospective Chinese buyers, who were forewarned that “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave”. A chilling incentive, indeed.

Got Milk? No, Not There

Through ad campaigns featuring younger role models such as Usher and Sarah Michelle Gellar, the Milk Assocation in the United States managed to get kids drinking more of the white stuff with its slogan “Got Milk?” However, when the campaign tried to expand south of the border, the translation came up with the much more unnerving enquiry; “are you lactating?”

Ford Promotes Self-Conscious Driving

You might be aware of the stereotype that men who drive sports cars do so to compensate for their, ahem, “shortcomings” in other areas. However, the Ford Motor Company had to wonder why South American sales of their more modest Pinto model were drooping in the 1970s. It turns out that ‘pinto’ is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals”.


Leave a Reply