The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Kekoukela", meaning "Bite the Wax Tadpole". Coke researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "kokoukole", translating into "Happiness in the Mouth."
Pepsi also had problems with Chinese when their slogan "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation" was translated for a Taiwanese billboard as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead."
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) found that its "Finger-Lickin' Good" slogan was translated into Chinese as the command to "Eat Your Fingers Off."
General Motors made a marketing error when trying to market the Nova car in Central and South America. "No va" in Spanish means, "It Doesn't Go".
The Swedish car magazine Fart (meaning "speed" in Swedish) probably planned to remain in Sweden, so it failed to anticipate the reaction when it covered international racing events.
Traficante is an Italian brand of mineral water. Unfortunately, in Spanish it means drug dealer.
The Coors slogan "Turn it loose" in Spanish, became "Suffer from diarrhoea."
Even such renowned a brand as Rolls Royce can make marketing mistakes. The Rolls-Royce Silver Mist never sold well in Germany, possibly because in German, mist means "human waste."
Even though countries share the same language, meaning can become complicated by nuance and dialect. Following great success in the UK with a tagline in the UK, vacuum manufacturer Electrolux decided to use it in their American market, not realizing the alternative meaning of a key word: 'Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.'
Samarin, a Swedish over-the-counter remedy for upset stomachs produced an advert in the form of a comic strip with no text. There were three pictures. The first was a man looking sick, grasping his stomach; the second picture showed him drinking a glass of Samarin and in the third picture he was smiling again. The advertising campaign campaign proved successful in Europe. However, when Samarin ran the advert in Arabic-speaking newspapers they did not do as well because they did not appreciate that in those countries people read from right to left.