Despite our best intentions marketing mistakes can and do happen. And they aren’t limited to the ‘little guys’ either. Below are some examples of famous gaffs made by large companies with sizeable marketing budgets and highly experienced teams.
It just goes to show that anyone can get it wrong. Though many of these mistakes seem humorous, they will have cost thousands or millions of pounds to correct or remedy. The very real consequences of these mistakes can be costly – and not just in terms of the cash involved. Brand images and reputations can be damaged and the cost may be difficult to determine.
Those costs can be even more painful to bear for those companies who have less money to market their products effectively. Smaller companies have to be even more careful to ensure they get it right. Not because they are any more inclined to get it wrong, but because their ability to absorb the damage that may be caused to their brand and image is proportionate to their size.
Enjoy reviewing the mistakes below and let them serve as a reminder that prudent research and great care are the only means we have to try to prevent costly mistakes.
Famous Marketing Blunders
1. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
2. Coors put its slogan “Turn It Loose” into Spanish where its translation was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
3. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “manure stick.”
4. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as they did in the U.S., with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since most people can’t read. Yikes!
5. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious naughty magazine.
6. An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa).
7. Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” in Chinese.
8. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Ke-kou-ke-la”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “ko-kou-ko-le”, translating into “happiness in the mouth.”
9. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Instead, the company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
10. Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”
If you’d like to learn about how to prevent your own marketing blunders then contact us