Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was
read as "Suffer from diarrhea."
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".
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in
an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem-Feeling Free", was
translated into the Japanese market as "When smoking Salem, you
will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
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 most people can't read English.
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).
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name
into "Schweppes Toilet Water."
Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into
"Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave," in Chinese.
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". 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".
P.S. There're always those other classics:
Marketing the Chevy Nova in Mexico without changing the name of the car.
"No va" mean "Doesn't go" in Spanish.
"Coca-Cola" in the nearest-sounding Chinese words translated into the surreal
"Bites the wax tadpole."
And then there are the vaguely American slogans seen on some Japanese
t-shirts and shopping bags, which don't sell anything but apparently sound
intriguing to the Japanese ear (as reported by Dave Barry), like:
Just Fit For You, King-Kong
Tonight's the Bitch
Ease Your Bosoms
Persistent Pursuit of Dainty
A drop of sweat is the precious gift for your guts