Lost in Translation
The longtime Madison Square Garden advertiser planned this month to install courtside ads written in Mandarin, the language of Lin's family, in an effort to connect with Chinese fans.
The postponement of the campaign will give Coke executives a chance to double-check their use of language and spelling and make sure their message is not being lost in translation, as so often has happened to other businesses with well-intentioned plans to build an overseas consumer base.
The list of well-known companies committing translation blunders already includes:
According to the EE Times, the company halted production the day before the campaign was set to launch, after realizing that when translated to Japanese, its ads revolved around the slogan "Tough Woody – the Internet Pecker."
The name Kraft Foods invented for its new snack spinoff company, Mondelez International, has come under scrutiny for what "Mondelez" sounds like in Russian.
While in a press release Kraft says the newly coined word "Mondelez" (to be pronounced "mohn-da-leez") was created to evoke the idea of "delicious world," it sounds like the Russian slang for an oral sex act, according to Crain's Chicago Business.
Kraft has defended its proposed selection. "We did extensive due diligence in testing the name," Kraft spokesman John Simley told Crain's. "That included two rounds of focus groups in 28 languages, including Russian. We determined misinterpretations in any of the languages to be low-risk."
Kraft shareholders are expected to vote on the name at their annual meeting next month.
Despite being popular in the United States, Clairol's Mist Stick curling iron was a dud in Germany, and it wasn't until the hair products company translated "mist" into German that executives figured out why.
"Mist" means "manure," and few German women were looking for a manure stick for their long locks.
Clairol wasn't alone in that problem; Rolls-Royce was forced to change the name of its Silver Mist to Silver Shadow before unveiling the car to Germans, and liquor producer Irish Mist also had difficulty breaking in to the German market.
In the U.S., the successful advertising campaign centered on the slogan "Avoid embarrassment, use Parker Pens."
When debuting the pen in Latin America, however, the company modified the slogan to "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you."
The campaign didn't catch on so well, since the Spanish word that the company used, embarazar, does not mean "to embarrass" but rather "to impregnate," leaving some with the impression that the new fountain pen wouldn't "leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
The Swedish company, known for having products with unique monikers, decided to give a newly designed children's mobile workbench the name "Fartfull."
While the word means "speedy" in Swedish, American parents weren't so quick to buy the desk for their kids.
In the end, IKEA was forced to pull the item from its collection.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.