8 Times Localization Went Wrong But Incredibly Funny

For any type of business, the localization process is necessary. Especially if its owners are planning to take it to the international market. Getting localization done correctly requires lots of research and professionalism. Usually for this occasion, a company hires a team of specialists, but even in this case funny accidents sometimes happen. The thing is that for some reason many business owners think that English, being spoken as the second language in most countries, for some reason gives them the opportunity to present their products on the international market without adapting them to it. And this is when they make their biggest mistake. So right now, we will present you with a list of 8 hilarious localization mistakes. Enjoy!

1. Starbucks

When years ago Starbucks presented their new Gingerbread Latte in Germany nobody could predict that it would go wrong. But unfortunately it did and due to the mistake, that Starbucks’ localization team made. The thing is that in Germany the word ‘latte’ means something a bit different and is often used as a slang term that is associated with the concept of male erection. For some reason Starbucks did not change the name of the beverage to a big amusement of the Germans. Luckily for them, they learned the lesson and changed their strategy in China.

2. Ford

This case of inappropriate (or rather non-existing) localization refers to Germany as well. This time Ford released a new model called ‘Probe’ but no one was curious enough to find out that in German language that basically means ‘test’. As a result, most Germans, who actually bought this car, were sure that they purchased a testing example and not a brand new vehicle.

3. IKEA

Everyone knows IKEA for its furniture and weird names for it. Sometimes even more for the second part. One day they released a workbench that in Swedish meant ‘full speed’. However, the original name in English sounded like Fartfull, which, if you agree, is not the most pleasant one.

4. Nike

One time Nike decided to shoot one of their commercials in Kenya, using people from local tribes as actors. In the video, the man from the tribe spoke his native language while Nike’s logo was on the screen. Luckily not so many people speak that language and no one understood that he was not advertising the product, but rather complaining about those shoes.

5. Pepsi

Pepsi was and still is one of the most popular non-alcoholic drinks. But prior to its huge success there were years of advertising. During their promotional campaign in Taiwan, localization team of Pepsi messed up the slogan, translating it into something that sounded like ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors from the dead’. No wonder Pepsi was not a big hit in that country.

6. Rolls Royce

Another case of German localization going wrong. Probably content specialists should be extra careful while attempting to promote products in this country. This time a company called Rolls Royce had to change the name of one of its automobiles from Silver Mist to Silver Shadow. In German language, the word ‘mist’ stands for ‘droppings’. Now, honestly, you do not want to drive a car that is called like that, even if it is a Rolls Royce.

7. Braniff Airlines

Apparently, this company’s marketing department did not do their homework right. At least this is the only possible explanation for the ridiculous mistake they made while translating their slogan ‘Fly in leather’ to Spanish. They probably used some online translation services as the result turned out to be ‘Fly naked’.

8. KFC

Everyone knows now what KFC is but there were times, when they were only gaining worldwide recognition. During their promo campaign in China something went wrong with the localization process and the translation of the slogan ‘Finger lickin’ good’ turned into a promise to eat their customers’ fingers off. Surely, that scared potential customers away and the campaign failed.

Some final thoughts

Localization of the product is one of the core aspects of its successful promotion on the international market. Unfortunately, not all companies understand that. Neglecting correct localization might eventually cost you thousands of dollars or in some cases even lead your brand to bankruptcy. Therefore, before you actually decide to go and ‘conquer’ new markets, make sure that you have a team of professional content specialists, who will deal with localization when the time comes. We hope that with these examples of failures, you will make some conclusions and will not make the same mistake. Just remember, that the bigger effort you put into your localization process, the bigger are your chances for the success.