10. Fly Me In Leather Please
American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its “Fly In Leather” campaign literally, which meant “Fly Naked” (“vuela en cuero”) in Spanish. (some reports say it was Braniff not American)
9. This is One Hot Momma of a Car
Ford’s Comet, was called “Caliente” in Mexico. “Caliente” literally means “hot” (as in temperature), but colloquially it is also used for either “horny” or “call girl”.
8. That Rhyme ‘ll Getcha Every Time
Hyundai had problems with the Hyundai Pony. In Cockney rhyming slang, “Pony” is short for “pony and trap”, meaning crap. As in you could say “I’m going for a pony” (going to the toilet) or that something is ‘pony’ (no good). It didn’t deter Hyundai, they still marketed it in the UK (circa 1982) with apparently some solid success.
7. Now That’s Just Littering
Stevadores in an unnamed African port, seeing the international—but evidently not universal!– symbol for ‘fragile’ (a wine glass with snapped stem) presumed it meant that some idiot had sent a cargo of broken glass. So they obligingly pitched all the cases overboard into the harbour. Oops.
6. Finger Lickin’ Chicken
When translated, literally, in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off.”
5. If The Name Fits, Flaunt It
Mazda’s Laputa seems like an odd name for a minivan. The Mazda Laputa was introduced in Japan in 1991. Spanish speakers immediately think of “puta”, the word for prostitute. With that in mind the ads claiming that “Laputa is designed to deliver maximum utility in a minimum space while providing a smooth, comfortable ride” and “a lightweight, impact-absorbing body” are humorous. Distributors in Santiago, Chile asked Mazda to rename the vehicle.
4. Got Milk…for the Baby?
The Dairy Association’s huge success with the campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?”
3. Colours Change With the Times
Not a marketing boo-boo but as a sign of keeping current, Crayola has changed color names over time due to the civil rights movement and other social pressures. In 1962, Binney & Smith replaced flesh with peach, in recognition of the wide variety of skin tones. More recently, in 1999, they changed Indian red to chestnut. The color was not named after Native Americans, it was actually named for a special pigment that came from India. But school children often assumed the incorrect origin of the name. There are many sites listing the history of Crayola colors, including Crayola’s own history page.
2. Apparently the Men in Quebec Do the Grocery Shopping
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means “big breasts”. In this case, however, interestingly, the name problem did not have any negative effect on sales.
1 . Digging Out of the Problem
Now this just can’t be good: British candy and soft-drink maker Cadbury Schweppes’ ran a promotional campaign for Dr. Pepper in which treasure-hunt prizes were buried in a historic Boston cemetery.
This was the brilliant idea that British confectionary giant Cadbury Schweppes, or at least its agents, came up with. In 2007 they were promoting their Dr. Pepper soft drink in the U.S. and they had a treasure hunt. The idea was to bury gold coins in various locations around the states, including the 347-year-old Granary Burying Ground in Boston where some of America’s most revered historic figures are buried, such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere. The parks commissioner in Boston said this was an “affront to the people who are buried there, our nation’s ancestors.” Cadbury Schweppes apologized and said that the decision to bury the coin in a cemetery was perhaps not done with the best judgment.
Myth: When General Motors introduced the Chevrolet (aka Chevy) Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that “no va” means “it won’t go”. After the company figured out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
Fact: Marketing profs love this example, but Ford’s sales numbers in Latin America just don’t support the myth. The car was solid and sold well in all Latin American markets.