As someone who did some translating over the summer, these are every translator's worst nightmare... Oh those idioms.
Coors translated its slogan, Turn it loose, into Spanish, where it was read as Suffer from diarrhea.
In Chinese, the translation of the Pepsi slogan:
Come alive with the Pepsi Generation
turned out: Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the grave.
Frank Perdue's slogan It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken sounds much more interesting in Spanish. A photo of Perdue with one of his chickens appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained:
It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, the ads were supposed to say It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you. However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word embarazar meant embarrass.
Instead the ads said: It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.
When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery,
Fly in leather, it came out in Spanish as Fly naked.
The Microsoft ad slogan, as translated into Japanese:
If you don't know where you want to go, we'll make sure you get taken.
When Chevrolet developed the Chevy Nova, they decided to market it heavily in Mexico. No va means it doesn't go in Spanish. The car was later renamed Caribe.
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for tiny male genitals. Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan finger-lickin' good came out in KFC’s first Chinese campaign as eat your fingers off.
An American tee-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market, promoting the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired I saw the Pope! (el Papa) Thousands of shirts proudly proclaimed in Spanish I saw the Potato! (la Papa).
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.
When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since many people can't read English.
Thanks to Innocent Englishfor these translations gone bad.