in Localization Tips, Translation

bad translations


Being a multinational company can be tough sometimes. What may work domestically may fall totally flat when implemented abroad. In no other place can this be seen more clearly than in cases of poor, inaccurate translation.

It’s a dangerous thing to release a new ad campaign for your product or company when you are unsure of how it will be received in a foreign market. It is an entirely different thing to release a new ad campaign in a foreign market when you have no idea of what the translated content of the campaign actually is. The following companies fall in the latter camp.

With somewhat misguided efforts to bring their brand abroad, these companies run the risk of damaging their international images. By releasing horribly mistranslated slogans that should have never made it past the editor’s desk, these companies show just how important localization is, even for the largest and most world-renowned brands.


The American Dairy Association

The American Dairy Association (ADA) is a prime example of a group that could have spent a little extra time and skimmed a little bit less on the translational aspect of its “Got Milk?” Mexico campaign. Much to the ADA’s chagrin, what was poured all over Mexican print and televised ad space was not their usual, well-known slogan, but instead a lowly and embarrassing mistranslation that read, “Are You Lactating?” No matter how catchy your slogan may have originally been, it’s pointless once you’ve started asking about human milk production.



Another guilty party when it comes to neglecting proper translation services is the worldwide giant, Pepsi. One would think that a world leading food and beverage company would have put in the extra time to ensure the quality of their content, but alas, they did not. In the end, Pepsi went abroad with an odd slogan aimed at a Chinese audience. In this campaign, the Pepsi slogan, “Come Alive with Pepsi!” was abysmally translated into, “Pepsi, Bring Your Ancestors back from the Dead!” While this translation does have an air of properly localized content—the ancestral reverence and such—it however falls quite short of sending the intended message to the target audience.


Ford Motor Company

While the above examples of poor translation are all humorous, if not a little bit off beat, Ford’s Belgium-facing campaign most definitely caused Ford to take a hit in this international market. When most go to buy a new car, one of the most important things that must go into the selection of a car is its safety rating. Well, in Ford’s eyes, safety wasn’t an issue for the Dutch. Instead of the intended promise of, “Every car has a high-quality body”, the people of Belgium were offered a wild ride with Ford, where “Every car has a high-quality corpse.”


While it may seem amazing that even some of the largest and most well-known companies in the world could have made such mistakes, maintaining a company’s brand and message across international lines is no small task. It is often a collaborative effort between a company and chosen localization and globalization services that allow a brand to avoid pitfalls like those seen above. At CSOFT we are acutely aware of the importance of considering every aspect of translation and the many differences between languages that can affect the desired meaning. This outlook can only come with extended experience in the localization industry, and with CSOFT’s position at the head of the localization industry in China, we know that clients can always feel safe with us guiding the way.

Written by Jordan Papolos- Senior Writer at CSOFT International

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