Translation errors in advertising. Translation is a task that must be carried out professionally, since the message must be transmitted trying to provoke the same sensations, perceptions and reactions in the recipient as in the original text. This is where the importance of hiring professional translators with experience comes from, since they will always carry out the translations taking into account the cultural context and adapt the puns used in the original to the target language.

In business contexts, professional translation plays a very important role and should not be ignored, since an error can generate great economic and reputational consequences for companies. Here are 5 examples of translation errors in large business advertising:

  • Coca Cola: The well-known and famous company Coca Cola had a big translation error in one of its advertising campaigns in China. In this campaign he used the expression “Ke-kou-Ke-la” without realizing that in China this means “bite the wax tadpole” or “wax stuffed mare”. By the time they realized this mistake they had already spent a lot of money creating miles of billboards. His advertising agency acted quickly and replaced the phrase with “happiness in your mouth”, however, the mistake had already been made and millions had already been spent that could have been saved if he had hired professional translators in the first place.
  • McDonalds: The great McDonalds company that has more than 37,000 establishments and is recognized worldwide made a big mistake when it introduced the Big Mac hamburger to the French market. The name of the burger was translated as “Gros Mec” which means “Great Pimp”. This without a doubt caused a scandal and to this day it is remembered as one of the worst translation mistakes of large companies.
  • American Airlines: In 1977 American Airlines, one of the most famous airlines in North America, carried out a campaign to promote its new leather armchairs. In the United States the phrase “Fly in Leather” was used to promote them, the problem occurred when the campaign arrived in Mexico and was translated literally, this expression for Mexicans means “Fly Naked”.
  • Electrolux: The famous Swedish company Electrolux, a leader in the sale of household appliances and vacuum cleaners, made a big mistake when it wanted to enter the US market in the 1970s. The phrase “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” was used for its advertising (Nothing vacuums like an Electrolux), expressing the good quality of their vacuum cleaners and stating that their machines suck up dust like no other. The mistake is that for Americans the word “sucks” has a negative connotation and is understood as failing, being unpleasant, being very bad. Therefore the expression was given to be understood as “Nothing worse than an Electrolux”.
  • Clairol: The American company of personal care products in 2006 launched its product “Mist Stick”, a hair curler. When taking their product to Germany, their name was translated literally, which was a big mistake since “mist” in Germany translates as “excrement” or “dung”, therefore the product was being used in Germany as “Palo de manure”. No doubt the sales were disastrous for the product as nobody wanted to buy something with this name.

These five examples demonstrate the importance of hiring professional translators, with high linguistic knowledge and command of the languages and cultures of the countries in which the advertising campaigns will be carried out. The work of the translators not only ensures that they correct grammatical errors, they are also in charge of ensuring that the message is coherent and that it is culturally accepted in the destination country. In cases of international campaigns, it is advisable to hire native translators or interpreters from each of the regions where the message is going to be carried.