5 Epic Translation Fails in Global Marketing

Translation Fails: 5 Epic Translation Fails in Global Marketing

Many large companies have learnt that just because a marketing campaign has worked domestically this does not guarantee success when replicated in a foreign market. A campaign message can sometimes get ‘lost in translation’, and worse still, be translated into something completely different, irrelevant or offensive! In some cases, disastrous translation fails in global marketing have not only cost a company millions, but also damaged the company’s brand and reputation.

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So, what companies are guilty of translation fails in their marketing campaigns? Here are our top 5 epic translation fails in global marketing:

Translation Fails: Case Studies

1. KFC

KFC is no doubt one of the most successful fast food chains in China. However in late 1980’s, the fried chicken franchise didn’t make the best impression when it faced a translation fail in its world-famous slogan.

When KFC opened its doors in Beijing, its slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good”, translated to the not so appealing “Eat Your Fingers Off”. Despite this, the translation fail in its slogan did not impact the business negatively, as now KFC has over 5000 restaurants in China. Not a bad outcome for KFC after all.

2. Coca Cola

Coca Cola was also guilty of an epic translation fail when the company first entered the Chinese market. The Coca Cola name was debuted in China as “Bite the wax tadpole” and “Female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect.

After the translation fail, Coca Cola came to a decision to settle for “Kokou Kole,” which translates as “Happiness in the mouth.”

3. Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name ‘Bensi’. The company shortly regretted this decision, as “Bensi” actually translates as “rush to die”. Mercades-Benz soon learnt that this was not the most clever name for a vehicle manufacturer.

4. Pepsi

Like its rival Coca Cola, Pepsi is another company that is guilty of a translation fail when entering the Chinese market. Pepsi’s slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was translated as “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave”. Who knew that a soft drink manufacturer was capable of bringing the dead back to life?


HSBC Bank was forced to re brand after its 5 year old campaign faced a translation fail in many countries. In 2009, it’s slogan “Assume Nothing” was translated as “Do Nothing”. This wasn’t the most effective slogan, as HSBC were trying to convince people to use its services. As a result, HSBC Bank spent over $10 million to replace the tagline with “The World’s Private Bank”. A perfect example of how translations are incredibly important in the business world.

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