Classic Hispanic Marketing Mistakes

December 11, 2011 Author: Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk

A few years ago, I compiled a list of Classic Hispanic Marketing/Translation/Advertising blunders. As more companies enter the Hispanic advertising arena it might be useful to remind ourselves how things can go wrong if we’re not careful. There is some debate as to whether some of the following may be apocryphal such as the often stated Chevy Nova example but the point is that as new companies move into the Hispanic space they should be aware of the challenges of translating ad copy. So here’s my list. Enjoy.

  • A major airline wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats and it translated its “Fly In Leather” campaign literally, which meant “Fly Naked” (vuela en cuero) in Spanish.
  • A beer company’s slogan, “Turn It Loose” was translated into “Suffer from Diarrhea” in Spanish.
  • A candy manufacturer’s “Cajeta” means caramel to Mexicans, but to others in Latin America it refers to female anatomy.
  • A T-shirt manufacturer printed shirts for the Hispanic market which promoted the Pope’s visit in Spanish. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I Saw the Potato” (la papa).
  • The Spanish translation for “Got milk?” came across as “Are you lactating?” in Spanish.
  • A computer manufacturer that used its initials to identify itself was surprised to find out they meant “S.O.B” in Spanish.
  • A sports car whose name meant ”ferocious” in Italian but “ugly” in Spanish. and my personal favorite….
  • A chicken company’s slogan was translated to “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken amorous.”

Research can save you from making this list like it did for Mitsubishi…
Mitsubishi’s Pajero (Montero in US) is an example of a brand that did some research and got it right. Before launching the Pajero in the US, Mitsubishi realized that the car name used in Europe meant “one who masturbates” in some Latin American countries. Thus, the Montero was born.

And again, I know that not all the above can be verified though some I personally remember from the media attention they got when the companies involved discovered the problem and made changes. Feel free to add your own examples in our comments section.