Slogans Gone Bad

Why the Chevy Nova didn’t sell well in South America


Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.”

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since most people can’t read.

The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Ke-kou-ke-la”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “Female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent: “ko-kou-ko-le”, translating into “Happiness in the mouth.”

In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan, “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation,” came out as “Pepsi Will Bring Your Ancestors Back From The Grave” in Chinese.

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan, “Finger-Lickin’ Good” came out as “Eat Your Fingers Off.”

Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that “No Va” means “It Won’t Go.” After the company figured out why it was not selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.

Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “Tiny Male Genitals.” Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted “Corcel”, which means horse.

When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its adds were supposed to say, “It Won’t Leak In Your Pocket And Embarrass You.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that “It Won’t Leak In Your Pocket And Make You Pregnant.”

An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of the desired “I Saw the Pope” in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed “I Saw the Potato.” (la papa)

In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.

Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.


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09-Aug-2020