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suprised woman because of the brand mistakes brands have made

10 of the Biggest Marketing Faux Pas of All Time

  |   CultureShocks Blog

It’s always a good idea to check whether your name, logo, or tagline means something different in the regions where you’re expanding. Otherwise these blunders can cause brands a lot of harm. We’ve gathered a list of marketing blunders made by some of the biggest and most loved brands.


1. Wake Up!

10 Biggest Brand Blunders in History, pepsi brings your ancerstors back from the dead

Back in the olden days, Pepsi’s wholehearted approach in creating prose to attract a younger generation sadly backfired in China when their ‘come alive’ slogan was mistranslated to mean ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead’. I know fizzy drinks wake you up, but my great-great grandma here says somebody must have been sleeping on the job…


2. Happy Accident

10 Biggest Brand Blunders in History, only exit signal from starbucks

More recently a Starbucks sign unknowingly created an invite many would not want to refuse. The mistranslation from English actually read ‘Success here’ in Spanish. I wonder how many budding entrepreneurs waltzed through the doors after seeing this…


3. Mind the Design

allah script that offended muslim community10 Biggest Brand Blunders in History, allah script considered an insult for the Muslim community

Two products which have offended some in the Muslim community by making the mistake of using Arabic lettering that looks uncomfortably similar to the script for ‘Allah’.


4. Burned

mac donalds blunder in mexico, unidos por el destino

Another cultural slip up, this time in Spain. The ad featured a TexMex burger illustrated by a stereotypical short Mexican man standing next to a tall dude from Texas, draped in the Mexican flag – which is not legal back home. The Mexican ambassador for Spain was quick to express his disapproval. The news went viral in Mexico and spread to the Hispanic population is the U.S., one of the chain’s big consumer segments. I guess even the best burgers get burned sometimes…


5. Oldie but Goldie

Coors slogan read suffer from diarrhoea.

Coors’ slogan ‘Turn it Loose’ got somewhat lost in translation, telling Spaniards to ‘suffer from diarrhoea’. Not sure I’d be in a hurry to drink that…


6. One for the Dogs

mc donalds blunder in the Middle East

Adapting languages across regions such as the Middle East requires even more care as script must also be taken into account. One simple misplaced dot or line can change an entire meaning. A fast food giant fell victim to this after adapting their ‘I’m loving it’ tagline into Standard Modern Arabic, which translated to ‘I’m a bitch’ in Egyptian dialect. I guess this one went to the dogs…


7. Ballsy

faux pas Nissan turbo cojones

This mishap saw a car maker forget America’s multicultural population with the headline ‘Turbo-Cojones’. In English, the expression refers to someone with a daring attitude, but in Spanish it means ‘Turbo Sweaty Nutsack’…. Ay, caramba!


8. Clean Up Your Act

nothing sucks like an electrolux

Rewind 25 years to when a Swedish company became one of the highest performers in the white goods category with its award-winning slogan ‘Nothing Sucks Quite Like Electrolux’. However, while expanding into the UK, they were unaware of the negative connotations ‘sucks’ held in Britain. I hear the brand quickly cleaned up its act and sucked up market share…


9. Taking the Piss

pee cola marketing mistake

Tourists visiting Ghana will have been surprised by their discovery of ‘Pee Cola’. The name of this highly popular soft drink actually translates to ‘very good cola’. I usually don’t take the piss, but in this case…


10. Food

puma faux pas in the uae

For the United Arab Emirate’s 40th anniversary, a sportswear brand decided to show solidarity with the nation and release a limited edition pair of trainers with the UAE flag’s colours. Little did they know that showing the bottom of your foot is a huge insult in Arab countries, and wrapping the flag around it even worse. I guess someone put their foot in their mouth…

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