How Brands Got Lost in Translation: Biggest Advertisement Localization Bloopers

by Karl Smerecnik on June 5, 2019

When brands to succeed overseas, they will have to start using their international customer base. However, even though they invest millions in marketing, this doesn't mean that they won't make any mistake and use the best translation companies in the market. Believe it or not, there are various international brands who failed in advertisement localization. This article will show you which were the biggest advertisement localization bloopers so far.

Biggest Advertisement Localization Bloopers

1. HSBC Bank

One of the biggest advertisement localization error in history comes from HSBC. They had to rebrand their global private banking operations in 2009. Why? After launching their "Assume Nothing" campaign on which they spent millions of dollars, HSBC decided to bring this campaign overseas. However, even though it was planned as a successful campaign, the result was slightly different than expected as the campaign was translated in many countries as "Do Nothing". How much did it cost them? They had to invest ten more million dollars to change their tagline into "The world's private bank" and stick to it.

2. Ford

Ford is also one of the brands who tested localization and failed. They launched a marketing campaign in Belgium with the purpose to highlight their cars' outstanding manufacturing characteristics. They decided to win the Belgian market and translated their ad which originally meant "every car has a high-quality body". However, they had to deal with an advertisement localization blooper as the slogan was read by their audience as "every car has a high-quality corpse". As you can imagine, the result was far from what they thought it would be and the executives discovered how difficult it is to entice their customers with a dead body.

3. KFC

One famous case of advertisement localization fail comes from KFC. Even though they put a lot of effort into making a good impression whenever they launched their business in a new country, KFC failed in their marketing campaign in 1980. Their launch in China was disturbed by a localization mistake. Their famous slogan "finger-lickin' good" was wrongly translated as "eat your fingers off". However, even though at the respective moment it wasn't a pleasant situation, KFC turned out to be a successful brand, with customers from different corners in this world.

4. Pampers

Sometimes, confusion comes not only from translation but also from the way brands choose to transmit their messages. When P&G launched their Pampers diapers in Japan, they made a localization mistake. They used on their packages the image of a stork delivering a baby. Even though their campaign had excellent results in the U.S., it wasn't so successful in Japan. Why? According to the national belief, storks don't bring the babies to their parents. According to the Japanese tradition, babies are brought by giant floating peaches. Thus, when they saw the respective image on the package, Japanese parents were confused and concerned about the company's trustworthiness.

5. Electrolux

Not all American brands do mistakes when they launch their products overseas. When Electrolux launched their vacuum cleaner on the American market, they had to witness a harsh English lesson. Trying to highlight their product's vacuuming power, Electrolux used the following tagline: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux". Even though they had a correct slogan from the grammar point of view, its meaning was devastating for the brand.


Advertisements are very important for brands to transmit their messages. There are many other languages in this world apart from English. Therefore, advertisers need to be very careful when translating an ad and keep in mind who is their target audience.

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