The Worst Marketing Translation Blunders

“Content is king”. How many times have you heard someone say this? We don’t have enough fingers on our hands and toes on our feet to count the number of times the importance of content marketing and all other types of marketing is continuously stressed on a daily basis. And it’s because this communication technique can take you to great heights of success or ruin your life (or that of the company you work for, depending on how you look at it). And to really take a good “look”, here are 3 major marketing translation blunders that were the talk of the town at the time.

Marketing translations that leave their mark

1- Refreshing drinks…with a Gothic side

Who hasn’t tried tonic water before? Delicious, right? Especially after a really hot day or to enjoy a relaxing time with friends. One of the largest manufacturers of tonic water is Schweppes. Its drinks are known to everyone and are sold in hundreds of countries. Nevertheless, in Italy, they’ll always remember the launching of a new kind of tonic water, which was—ill-advisedly—translated into “Gothic Schweppes” instead of “Schweppes tonic water”. We would never have guessed that tonic water also had a dark side to it.

2- “Female horse fastened with wax” or Coca-Cola?

Famous brands such as Coca Cola have also run into the pitfalls of not getting professional advice in the world of translation or not putting too much importance on marketing translation. In Asia, there may still be some people who remember the launching of Coca-Cola in China with some dismay. The campaign was launched using “K’o K’ou K’o Lê.”, which meant “female horse fastened with wax”. When the company realized its error, thousands of advertising posters had already been printed. Fortunately, it was able to correct the mistakes in the posters by hand, adding a different ending so that it would mean “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice”, which was definitely more suitable for the product.

3- American Airlines Mexico ventures into naturism

If you’re into naturism, you’re definitely in luck. Some years ago, American Airlines advocated it (not intentionally, but by accident) during a promotional campaign of their planes’ new leather seats. They couldn’t come up with anything better than to use Google Translate to translate (literally) the US campaign entitled Fly In Leather into “vuela en cueros (fly naked)”. Well, if you had decided to go for it, they wouldn’t have had any reason to give you a hard time.

Is it a good idea to translate content marketing?

Of course, it is! Provided you entrust the translation to a professional translator. The so-called “content marketing” is a communication technique that consists—in a nutshell—in showing quality and useful content in an attractive way for the final customer.   Rather ambiguous, right? Well, yes, a little, especially considering that this marketing technique is a multi-billion-euro industry.

Content marketing forms part of a company’s overall communications strategy. It’s not intended to sell directly and it doesn’t use purely promotional or advertising content. Its ultimate goal is to attract new customers or build customer loyalty. Now do you understand why translating content marketing is so important? You’ll be much more effective in your country and abroad, with the ensuing increase in turnover.

And now that we’ve learned the lesson on marketing translation blunders we’re better off not making, let’s get to work to make some headway!

Which marketing translation blunder drew your attention the most?