When we were traveling, we were particularly drawn to American companies that ‘made it big’ across the pond.(s) This week our Facebook posts a photo of our guys standing in front of two American fast-food-chains that have made it big in China: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway. (Check Facebook: Ourbackpack). Ever wonder how much American marketer’s catch-phrases would be lost in translation? Me too. “Finger-Lickin’Good” translated to “Eat Your Fingers Off,” was a good start.
I dug further:
When Coca Cola was first introduced into China they named it “Ke-Kou-Ke-La.” Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed, that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole.” Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent: Ko-Kou-Ko-Le, which can be roughly translated as “happiness in the mouth.” Of course the ‘happiness in your mouth’ is only a plus for your dentist who get’s the benefit of correcting the ‘happiness damage.’
When Braniff Airlines translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly naked.”
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
The American Dairy Association’s huge success with its campaign “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read “Are you lactating?”
Ford seemed to have a problem in Brazil where sales of the Pinto flopped. On investigation the company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Ford pried the nameplates off each and every Pinto, and substituted the word: Corcel, which means “horse.”
And my favorite: Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following American marketing idea, and wrote: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
Honestly, there’s so much more to share, so I’ll save it for next week. This weekend we will be celebrating the fact that – though we adored seeing the world – we are hopelessly in love with the Land of the Free. Thank God for your heritage. And God Bless America!