Friday, June 01, 2007

Some favourite International blunders

Many of you will already be aware of some of the blunders large companies have made when entering new markets abroad. But, for those of you who are not I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.

Firstly, product names:

- Clairol had a curling iron named the "Mist Stick." They introduced the product in Germany, to later find out that "mist" was German slang for manure.

- Over in Italy, Schweppes Tonic Water’s campaign found that the name translated into Schweppes Toilet Water. Maybe not the most desirable of soft drinks.

- And in China, the most famous product name blunder of them all – Coca-Cola. When it was first introduced there in the 1920s they wanted to have the English pronunciation of “Coca-Cola”. A translator used a group of Chinese characters that when pronounced sounded like the product name. They were promptly put on the cola bottles and marketed. But they never sold well. Why? The company later discovered that when the characters were translated they meant, “a wax flattened mare” or “bite the wax tadpole.” Yea, I wonder why it never sold well? Needless to say, Coca-Cola changed the characters and the new characters translate to “happiness in the mouth.” A bit better than a tadpole in it.

Next, packaging:

- Apart from the connotations of colours in different countries, for example, white symbolising death in Japan, green representing danger or disease in Malaysia, sometimes the actual pictures on packaging can cause problems. One such example of this was when a baby food manufacturer tried to sell jars of baby food in an African country using a label showing a happy baby. Seems fine? The problem was that most of the prospective customers were illiterate and could only determine the contents by looking at the label. The picture gave them the impression they would
actually be purchasing bottled babies. Probably not what most were planning on buying.

Lastly, and my favourite, slogans:

- Coors beer slogan "Turn it loose" didn’t quite translate so well in Spanish, it meant, “Suffer from diarrhea" – nice!

- The Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux also used a catchy slogan in an American campaign: - "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." I don’t if this was a complete blunder however, as there’s certain irony to it. I doubt they were trying to be ironic though.

- Salem cigarettes tag line "Feeling Free" was roughly translated in Japanese to mean "feeling so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty." Was it just tobacco they contained?

- An American T-shirt manufacturer printed shirts for the Latin market commemorating the Pope's visit to Miami. Instead of reading, "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read, "I saw the potato" (la papa). No difference there.

- Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated in Chinese to "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." No mean feat.

- Perdue Chicken's had a slogan "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" when read by Spanish audiences it translated as "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate." Hmmmm.

- Finally, Spanish-speaking audiences in Southern California were asked, "Got milk?" To them it meant, "Are you lactating?"

And now I’ve provided you with a little amusement to make your Friday pass a little quicker, I’m off for a wax tadpole…



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