Try our custom LLM Masker
Featured Image

2 min read


Translation Fails in Advertising. Errors that will bring down your international business

Partnering with a translation company may not come to mind initially when expanding your business. However, you need to study each and every area of your business in detail to avoid any failures. Make mistakes in translation and advertising (often combined) and you are sure to bring down your international business.

It is not easy to keep a constant, solid, coherent brand message in different cultures, and few brands have truly achieved this. Globalizing a business entity is a demanding task, and may not be as simple as it sounds. Being neglectful of even making a mistake in the most insignificant areas of your business affairs can lead to considerable losses.

Mistakes in translation can play a key role in the failure of your promotional campaign within a particular region. Acquiring professional translation services and relying on human translation can ensure that you avoid making any such mistakes in translation and are provided with quality translations for your business. To further assist efficient and quality translation, human translation can be accompanied by the adequate use of computer-assisted translation tools and translation memory.

Below are a few examples which show how mistakes in translation can lead to the failure of an advertising campaign and the significance of hiring professional human translation services in such situations.


The famous fast food chain, when introduced its promotional campaign in Beijing, China, had to face a setback. The reason behind the failure of the advertising campaign was an apparently trivial mistake in the translation, which caused considerable losses for the fast food chain. The famous slogan of KFC, "Finger-lickin’ good" was inadequately translated in Chinese as "Eat your fingers off." The unappealing translation caused many consumers to feel aversion towards the food that KFC offered. However, the international fast food chain was quick to realize and amend its mistake, and today leads a flourishing business setup in China.


Another multinational that had a massive fail with its advertising campaign in China was Pepsi. In the 1960s, Pepsi expanded its business to China and launched its promotional campaign, which had the original slogan worded as "Come alive with Pepsi". The slogan was improperly translated as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead." The absurdity of the translation led to the failure of the entire promotional campaign.


HSBC is probably one of the few multinationals that faced extensive monetary loss due to translation mistakes in its advertising campaign. In 1999, HSBC extended its promotional campaign, specific to U.S., to a number of countries overseas with the slogan "Assume nothing." However, in various countries, the slogan was translated to be understood as "Do nothing." The translated slogan was considered to be nonsensical by many consumers, and HSBC had to spend a sum of $10 million to redesign its promotional campaign. The original slogan of "Assume nothing" was changed to "The world’s private bank."


The auto giant, Ford, identified a large scale consumer base for their product in Belgium. The multinational was enthusiastic about expanding its business to this European country and launched an extensive advertising campaign in the region with a slogan the team at Ford thought meant "Every car has a high-quality body." However, the slogan was translated to actually mean "Every car has a high-quality corpse." Hiring professional translation services for business purposes is of significant importance and can play a key role in the success of an overseas promotional campaign. Nowadays, human translation can also be aided by the use of computer-assisted translation tools and translation memories.

Machine translation

Machine translation can play a part in your international strategy. It can help you monitor what different markets are saying about your product or service. It can also help you publish more content, faster, if properly managed with human post-editing services. Contact PangeaMT, our machine translation division, if you would like to find out more about how to add professional machine translation to your international efforts and see your business grow. Computer-assisted translation tools and translation memories can be effective for organization and time efficiency in the translation process.