ADVERTISERS often try their luck away from home shores to try and impress even more people into buying their product, but all too often it can go horribly wrong.
Take the brewery which branched out into Spain. Their slogan was fine in English, but when translated into Spanish it read “suffer from diarrhoea” and sales went down the pan.
Food is not exempt and one chicken sales giant with the slogan “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” also laid an egg in the Spanish market where the slogan was translated into “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.
Apparently Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico where its ads were supposed to read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.”
Sadly the company thought that the word “embarazar” meant “to embarrass” when it actually meant “to impregnate”. That left the company with an advert which read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
Another advert which had the bubbles knocked out of it came from Schweppes Tonic Water…whose name translated into a less than thirst-quenching “Schweppes Toilet Water”!
General Motors hit trouble with their South American launch of the Chevy Nova, a low sales problem finally being identified by the realization that in Spanish “nova” means “it won’t go”.
One of my favourites came from Ford’s introduction of the Pinto to Brazil, similar low sales being finally pinned down to the fact that “Pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.”
Foreign companies have similar problems when they enter English speaking markets.
Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it expanded to English-speaking countries and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of the Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name!
Another favourite of mine comes from Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux which chose an American campaign to trumpet: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”!
One of the all time champions has to be a famous drug company which marketed a new remedy in the United Arab Emirates.
To avoid any mistakes they used pictures, the first showing a sick person, the second showing the person taking their medicine and the third showing the person looking a lot better. Just one problem with that. They forgot that in the Arab world people read from right to left!
So perhaps the devil of advertising is in the detail and what better example could I give of plain, simple straightforward explanations than this one which famously explains cricket to foreigners. It goes:
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.
“When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!”