Common Translation Mistakes: 5 Examples from Big Global Brands
Common translation mistakes can be catastrophic for a brand or business, especially if they are trying to expand worldwide. When trying to reach a new audience or venturing into a different market, it is imperative to remember the variances in customs, traditions and colloquial expressions. If you don’t research these details, it is easy to unintentionally offend or evoke the wrong emotions in the target audience.
Below, we will share some of the biggest and most common translation mistakes made by renowned brands. We’ll also highlight how you can avoid them with the help of professional translation services.
Spread across 80 countries and territories throughout the world, HSBC is one of the most popular financial services providers worldwide. Also, they are certainly one of the few companies that you wouldn’t expect a common translation mistake from. In an attempt to expand overseas, the financial giant chose to use its successful American campaign tagline “Assume Nothing” worldwide.
Unfortunately, this effort didn’t quite work out well for the company. In several countries across the globe, the tagline was mistranslated into “Do Nothing”. Consequently, the phrase didn’t have a very positive impact on the brand and caused an embarrassment for the company.
KFC has over 18,000 branches in practically every country in the world. The company is one of the most popular fast food giants that the world has ever seen. As unfortunate as it may sound, this status wasn’t enough to save the company from backlash due to mistranslations when it started marketing to China.
The company translated their famous slogan “finger lickin’ good” into “eat your fingers off” at one of the first branches of the restaurant that opened up in Beijing.
Swedish home appliance company, Electrolux, also made common translation mistakes when it was trying to launch its products in the United States. They created an advertisement campaign aimed at highlighting the power and efficiency of one of their latest vacuum cleaners. For that, Electrolux created the slogan, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Yes, they succeeded in receiving increased brand awareness, reach and engagement but for all the wrong reasons.
When targeting audiences in Belgium, auto giant Ford created a supposedly unique tagline that reads “Every car has a high-quality body”. The reason for this is to shed light on the unparalleled manufacturing and quality of every Ford car. However, it didn’t take long for them to realise the tagline was incorrectly translated as “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Another tagline that may not have portrayed the intended message, but certainly got more than its fair share of (embarrassing) attention.
Renowned soft drink and cola brand, Pepsi, too had a terrible experience in China too. They fell in the trap of the most common translation mistakes when they translated their slogan “We bring you back to life” into “We bring your ancestors back from the dead”. As a result, the slogan didn’t receive a very positive response for obvious reasons.
In conclusion, these examples are humorous in hindsight. However, imagine the stress they caused the executives responsible for these overseas market penetration strategies. If the corporate giants are not immune to cultural faux pas and translation inaccuracies, how will you protect yourself?
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We have a team of expert translators who can help you with all of your international translation needs. Whether you’re looking for proofreading, transcription or localisation services, our skilled experts can help you get the job done in no time. Contact us today and let our team protect your brand reputation overseas.