More Fun With Brand Misinterpretations in Other Cultures

barfHey, remember that annoying Got Milk fad that was going around back in the day? The one where numerous celebrities wore milk moustaches and tried to make drinking milk seem cool? Well, you know who really remembers it?

The majority of Spanish folks.

Roughly translated, “Got milk?” was essentially asking Spanish ladies “Are you lactating?” Seriously…no joke.

Speaking of the Spanish, you may not see many of them drinking Coors Light. There’s two reasons for this.  First, most Mexican beer is far superior to American beer and secondly, there’s a translation issue in an older slogan of Coors. Remember their “Turn it loose,” motto? Translated, that refers to someone having “loose bowels.”

There wasn’t much blowback over this little translation snafu in the world of branding. But there are some companies that just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to product names having a completely different meaning in different cultures.

Ikea can tell you all about this. In the not too distant past, they have had numerous run-ins with translation problems in a few areas of their brand—particularly in Thailand. A few of the most popular are:

  • In Thailand, the Ikea pot plant called the Jättebra, is incredibly similar to a Thai slang word for “sex.”
  • Customers in Thailand might have been excited to purchase the Redalen bed, as it the Thai terminology used for getting to third base.
  • Neither of the above holds a candle to the Gutvik bed—which, in German, is very close to meaning “great f*ck.”

Oh Ikea, you and your kinky exploits!

But hey…it doesn’t only happen in the US. As a matter of fact, in the Middle East there is a laundry detergent called “Snow.” Sounds nice and fresh and clean…until you translate it from its Farsi origins and into English…where it means “barf.”

What are some other good ones you’ve heard? Has your own brand run into these comical sorts of mishaps?


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