Keywording in Other Languages

Posted on 6/14/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



June 14, 2000

If you think it will be a snap to keyword your images so people using other

languages can find them -- think again. To get some idea about how hard it

is to translate keywords into multiple languages consider some of the fiascos

major corporations have had in trying to market their products in other


The Nova Awards in Marketing are given in honor of GM's fiasco in trying to

market the Chevy Nova in Central and South America.

"No va" means, of course, in Spanish, "it doesn't go".

Some of the nominees for the Chevy Nova Award are:

  • The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign

    "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon

    brought to their attention the Spanish translation read "Are you lactating?"

  • Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish,

    where it was read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."

  • Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the

    following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."

  • Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron,

    into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too

    many people had use for the "Manure Stick."

  • When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they

    used the same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label.

    Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the

    labels of what's inside, since many people can't read.

  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue,

    the name of a notorious porno magazine.

  • 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).

  • Pepsi's "Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi

    Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave" in Chinese.

  • The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as

    "Kekoukela", 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 "kokou kole", translating into "happiness in the


  • 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."

  • 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. "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!"

    12. When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class

    seats in the Mexican market, it translated its "Fly In

    Leather" campaign literally, which meant "Fly Naked" (vuela en cuero) in


  • Copyright © 2000 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

    Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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