McDonald’s ended up with Egg McMuffin on its face after it attempted to reach out to St. Paul, Minnesota’s Hmong community with two new billboards.
The billboards in question were meant to encourage local Hmong residents to patronize McDonald’s for breakfast, using the slogan “Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.”
Unfortunately, whoever translated the slogan into Hmong didn’t do a particularly good job. The vocabulary is there, but local residents say the syntax is off and there aren’t spaces between the words.
As resident Bruce Thao, who speaks Hmong, explained to the Post Bulletin,
“It sounds weird in Hmong because we don’t really talk like that. Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words.”
Once the error was pointed out, Gregg Miskiel, marketing director of McDonald’s Midwest Region, released the following statement to the media:
“While it was our intention to create a special message for our Hmong population in Minnesota, we now realize that an error was made in the translation of ‘Coffee Gets You Up, Breakfast Gets You Going.’ It was not our intention to offend anyone and we apologize for the error. We are working with our local advertising agency to correct these billboards and will re-post next week.”
St. Paul is home to the largest Hmong community in the United States, so it’s no surprise that McDonald’s would want to reach out. However, when you reach out to a community that speaks another language, you need to make an effort to get it right by hiring a qualified translation company and perhaps recruiting members of that community to preview your advertising before it goes live.
There’s no telling how McDonald’s perky breakfast slogan got lost in translation, but some additional due diligence could have saved the company some embarrassment.