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Cultural Blunders—Where Brands Failed to Translate


As the world becomes increasingly diverse, multicultural marketing is becoming more and important. Brands are exploring some very profitable niches within certain ethnic groups, which is why one size fits all doesn’t work anymore.


Marketing campaigns need to be multicultural, so that they appeal to the ethnic groups more effectively. Multicultural marketing doesn’t mean translations; far from it. It is about understanding the culture, the language and the values of a certain culture and then devising a marketing campaign that would appeal to the ethnic niche.


To understand how important multicultural marketing it, let’s explore some brands that failed to look at the cultural context of language.


Ink can make You Pregnant

Parker Pen once launched a marketing campaign with a slogan that said, ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.’


When Parker Pen launched their same campaign for a Mexican audience, they failed miserably with the translation. They thought the word for ‘embarrass’ in Spanish was ‘embarzar’, but what it actually meant was ‘to impregnate’.

So their slogan in Spanish actually meant ‘It won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you.’


Pepsi and the Dawn of the Dead

This one might be the most epic cultural blunders ever. “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was a very catchy slogan which they decided to take to China; but when they came up with the translation their translation actually meant “Pepsi Brings Your Forefathers Back From the Grave.”


While brands often make inflated claims, this one was way over the top. We now at least have someone taking responsibility of an inevitable zombie invasion.


Suffer from Diarrhea

Coors beer was a successful brand in America for several years, their slogan “Turn it Loose!” had a nice ring to it. However, when they launched their beer in Mexico, their slogan in Spanish actually meant “Suffer From Diarrhea!”


Who knows, the slogan might have even worked for people who were looking to get “wasted”.


Ford Introduces “Tiny Male Genitals”

Ford launched its new car Pinto in Brazil, and soon realized that their launch campaign wasn’t working. After some investigation, it was found that Pinto is actually a slang word for “Tiny Male Genitals” in Brazil. The sales obviously went nowhere because no one was willing to ride such a thing.


They soon rebranded their car to “Corcei”, which means Horse.


“Fly Naked” in Braniff Airlines

Braniff Airlines came up with a marketing campaign “Fly in Leather” for their first-class customers. When they translated this slogan for their Mexican customers, it actually turned into “Fly Naked”.


The slogan may have attracted many customers, but it was far from the actual message the airline was trying to send.


We are an ethnic marketing agency specializing in Hispanic marketing campaigns. We have a diverse marketing team that understands culture, language and values that prevail in the Hispanic market.


Visit our website to learn more.

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