Top 20 Global Communications and Marketing Mistakes
While they are sometimes to be embarrassed, the examples of global marketing mistakes are a useful means of appreciating that we are not all the same. For any company or business running a marketing campaign abroad, you need to take linguistic and cultural variations seriously.
Here are the top 20 marketing and communications mistakes from around the world.
1) The Japanese company Matsushita Electric was promoting a new Japanese PC for Internet users. Panasonic created the new web browser and was licensed to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as an interactive guide to the Internet. The day before the huge marketing campaign, Panasonic realized its mistake and took it offline. Why? The new product advertisements featured the following tagline: “Touch Woody – The Internet Pecker.” The company only realized its cross-cultural error when an embarrassed American explained how “touch Woody’s penis” could be interpreted!
2) Swedish furniture giant IKEA somehow agreed on the name “FARTFULL” for one of its new desks.
3) In the late 1970s, Wang, the American computer company could not understand why its British branches were refusing to use its latest slogan “Wang Cares”. Of course, to British ears this sounds too close to “Wankers”, which would not really give a very positive image to any company.
4) The “Traficante” and the Italian mineral water had a great reception in the underworld of Spain. In Spanish it translates as “drug trafficker”.
5) In 2002, Umbro, the UK sports manufacturer, had to retire their new trainers (shoes) called Zyklon. The firm received complaints from many organizations and individuals for being the name of the gas used by the Nazi regime to murder millions of Jews in concentration camps.
6) Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent £ 6 million on a campaign to launch their new ‘Bundh’ sauces. He received calls from numerous Punjabi speakers telling them that “bundh” sounded like the Punjabi word for “ass.”
7) Honda introduced their new car “Fitta” to the Nordic countries in 2001. If they had taken the time to conduct cross-cultural market research, they might have discovered that “fitta” was an old word used in the language. vulgar to refer to a woman. genitalia in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. In the end they renamed it “Honda Jazz”.
8) American Motors tried to market its new car, the Matador, based on the image of courage and strength. However, in Puerto Rico the name means “murderer” and it was not popular on the country’s dangerous highways.
9) Proctor & Gamble used a television commercial in Japan that was popular in Europe. The ad showed a woman bathing, her husband entering the bathroom and touching her. The Japanese viewed this announcement as an invasion of privacy, inappropriate behavior, and in very bad taste.
10) Leona Helmsley should have done her homework before passing a promotion that compared her Helmsley Palace hotel in New York to the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum in India.
11) A golf ball manufacturing company packaged golf balls in packs of four for convenient purchase in Japan. Unfortunately, the pronunciation of the word “four” in Japanese sounds like the word “death” and items packed in four are unpopular.
12) Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast Asia emphasizing that it “whitening teeth.” They found that local natives chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth, which is attractive to them.
13) A company advertised glasses in Thailand featuring a variety of cute animals with glasses. The ad was a bad choice, as animals are considered a form of bad life and no self-respecting Thai would wear anything worn by animals.
14) The Fresca soft drink was being promoted by a salesperson in Mexico. She was shocked that her sales pitch was greeted with laughter and then embarrassed when she learned how fresh “lesbian” lingo is.
15) Kellogg had to change the name of its Bran Buds cereal in Sweden when it discovered that the name roughly translated as “burned farmer.”
16) When Pepsi announced Pepsi in Taiwan with the ad “Live with Pepsi”, they had no idea that it would translate into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.”
17) Coors put his motto, “Turn It Loose”, into Spanish, where his translation read as “Sufre de diarrea”.
18) Frank Perdue’s chicken motto, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “It takes an excited man to make a loving chicken.”
19) Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a famous porn magazine.
20) During its 1994 launch campaign, the telecommunications company Orange had to change its advertisements in Northern Ireland. “The future is bright … the future is orange.” That campaign is an advertising legend. However, in the North, the term Orange suggests the Order of Orange. The implicit message that the future is bright, the future is Protestant, loyal … did not sit well with the Irish Catholic population.