Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."
Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free," got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the “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.”
When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However, the company's mistakenly thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that "It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."
Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused."
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a porno magazine.
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.
Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.
A Budweiser slogan "Cut loose with Bud light" was translated directly into Spanish and came out "Quedate flojo con Bud Light" which means "Get the runs with Bud Light".
When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, "Fly in leather," it came out in Spanish as "Fly naked."
Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea."
When Vicks first introduced its cough drops on the German market, they were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of "v" is the “F” sound, which in German is the guttural equivalent of "sexual penetration."
Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its product, only to learn that "Puff" in German is a colloquial term for a whorehouse. The English weren't too fond of the name either, as it's a highly derogatory term for a non-heterosexual.
A hair products company, 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 first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as here in the USA - with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside since most people can't read.
*found at skiptucker.com