Translation Mistakes: 5 Bad Translations from Global Brands
Translation mistakes can be catastrophic for a brand, especially for businesses expanding worldwide. When reaching a new audience, variances in customs, traditions, and colloquial expressions can lead to numerous translation mistakes. Bad translations can make no sense, and terrible translations can unintentionally offend or evoke the wrong emotions in the target audience.
Below we will share some of the most prominent translation mistakes by renowned global brands. They’re so terrible that they’re almost funny! We also highlight how you can avoid these mistakes with the help of professional translation services so you’re not made a laughing stock.
1. HSBC – “Do Nothing”
Spread across 80 countries and territories worldwide, HSBC is one of the most popular financial services providers. They are certainly one of the few companies you wouldn’t expect translation mistakes from. However, they have one of the most infamous terrible translations!
In an attempt to expand overseas, the financial giant chose to use its triumphant American campaign tagline “Assume Nothing” worldwide. Unfortunately, this effort didn’t quite work out well for the company. In several countries, the slogan was mistranslated into “Do Nothing.” Unsurprisingly, the bad translations didn’t positively impact the brand and caused embarrassment for the company.
2. KFC – “Eat Your Fingers Off”
Another of the most terrible translations of all time is from KFC. KFC has over 18,000 branches in practically every country, making it one of the most popular fast-food giants worldwide. As unfortunate as it may sound, this status wasn’t enough to save the company from backlash due to translation mistakes when it started marketing to China.
The company translated its famous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” into “Eat your fingers off” at one of the first branches of the restaurant that opened up in Beijing. This isn’t just an example of bad translations; it’s terrible! Their food sounds anything but appetising, with a nasty cannibalistic spin.
3. Electrolux – “Nothing Sucks Like Electrolux”
Swedish home appliance company Electrolux also made translation mistakes when trying to launch its electronics products in the United States. They created an advertising campaign highlighting the power and efficiency of one of their latest vacuum cleaners. For that, Electrolux created the slogan, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.
The Swedish company failed to realise that “sucks” is used in colloquial speech as “terrible,” making it to our list of bad translations. Yes, the company succeeded in receiving increased brand awareness, reach, and engagement from its terrible translations, but for all the wrong reasons.
4. Ford – “Every Car Has a High-Quality Corpse”
When targeting audiences in Belgium, automotive 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, this resulted in yet another of the funniest translation mistakes and most terrible translations to date.
When the tagline was translated, it read as “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” This tagline not have portrayed the intended message, but it certainly got more than its fair share of embarrassing attention. After the humiliation, Ford was sure never to make bad translations again!
5. Pepsi – “We Bring Your Ancestors Back from the Dead”
Like KFC’s bad translations, the renowned soft drink and cola brand Pepsi had a terrible experience in China. They fell into one of the most common translation mistakes when they translated their slogan “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation” word-for-word. In Chinese, this literal translation reads, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”
As a result, the slogan didn’t receive a very positive response for obvious reasons. However, it is arguably one of the most terrible translations of all time. Not only does it sound creepy, but a large part of the Chinese culture revolves around worshipping ancestors. Pepsi’s marketing campaign wasn’t only weird – it was rude and offensive.
Avoid Translation Mistakes with Renaissance Translations
These examples of translation mistakes are humorous in hindsight. However, imagine the stress these terrible translations caused the executives responsible for these overseas market penetration strategies. Besides, if corporate giants are not immune to translation inaccuracies, how will you protect yourself from bad translations?
Thankfully, Renaissance Translations can help! We have a team of expert translators who can help you with your international translation needs. Every team member is a qualified linguist, sure to avoid all potential translation mistakes and help your business succeed overseas – without becoming an object of ridicule in new markets.
Your partnership with Renaissance Translations comes with professional memberships such as ATC and SDL LSP Partner Programme. Whether you’re looking for proofreading, transcription, or localisation services, our skilled experts can help. Contact us today and let our team protect your brand reputation overseas.