Tag Archives: marketing

International Marketing Mistakes – the Answers

Do your international marketing attempts 'suck'?

Thank you all for some interesting suggestions for the international marketing mistakes described in my previous blog.  A combination of linguistic and cultural reasons, and quite a few of my international friends were spot on!  I am not claiming that any of the reasons below were the SOLE reason for things not going according to plan, of course.  Launching a product internationally is always going to a complex operation with many potential failure points.  But here is my interpretation of events:

1) ‘V’ is pronounced ‘f’ in German, and ‘Fick-en’ is a rude word in that language. LESSON: Don’t neglect pronounciation of words!

2) Indians don’t really like cereal with milk for breakfast.  Kelloggs tinkered with the packaging and flavour, but neglected that fundamental cultural difference.  LESSON:  Don’t make assumptions that there is a gap in the market – the gap may be there for a reason!

3) Pajero in Spanish means ‘w**ker’ and ‘Pinto’ is Brazilian slang for suggesting a man is less than well-endowed.  LESSON: Make sure you know what your fanciful name means in the markets you are targeting.

4) It was thought that Barbie’s breasts were too big for the Japanese market.  LESSON:  Sometimes people want the exotic, but not too exotic.

5) ‘Shito’ – well, we all know what that sounds like in English, regardless of how long or short the first vowel may be intended to be.

6) Hallmark was considered too syrupy by French consumers, who also prefer writing their own messages in cards.  LESSON: Understand your target market.

7) In countries where handmade gifts have been the norm for decades (because there was nothing else to buy), there is a hunger for slick mass-produced goods.  LESSON:  Do not patronise your new market.

8) Dairy products never do well in Japan, partly for cultural and partly for physiological reasons (high incidence of lactose intolerance).  The focus groups should have uncovered that, but researchers had not realised that the surveyed Japanese consumers would consider it rude to make critical comments about the product and therefore were reluctant to admit that they would not buy it.  LESSON: Make sure you are asking the right questions.

9) The Indians felt insulted that Mercedes was producing an older model of their car for the Indian market.  LESSON: Do not make people feel you have made the buying decision for them.  Do not make assumptions about what people are prepared to spend.

10) ‘Sucks’ is a derogative term in the US and could roughly translate as ‘low-quality’ or even ‘terrible’.  LESSON:  Get your translations and idioms right.

Are there any other explanations you can think of?  What about other fun examples of  messages going astray when they cross borders?



Filed under Business cultur, Globalization

Favourite International Marketing Mistakes

Getting your name, brand, image, colour, strapline and even product right when you go abroad can be a real challenge even to big, established corporations.  It’s often about a lot more than just correct translation – it’s about cultural awareness, doing your research and making sure that you understand what your research results mean (that you are interpreting them correctly).

As a fun Friday activity, here are a few of my favourite examples.  See if you can spot what happened in each case:

1) The company Vicks had to change its name in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

2) Kelloggs breakfast cereals did not take off as expected in India, even when they introduced mango and rosewater-flavoured cereal.

Geneva Car Show - car manufacturers are particularly vulnerable to misinterpretation with their fanciful names

3) Mitsubishi Pajero changed its name to Montero in Latin America and Spain, and to Shogun in the UK.  Ford Pinto also had to change its name in Brazil after disappointing sales.

4) The first Barbie doll in Japan attracted comment but very few sales.

5) Shito Sweetmix will never do well in the UK/US market.

6) Hallmark cards had to admit failure in France.

7) A small but exclusive company specialising in personalised, hand-made gifts and cards could not understand why it was failing to capture the imagination of the Eastern European market.

8) French dairy group organised focus groups and market research in Japan and was pretty sure that yoghurt was the next big thing to an increasingly Westernised palate there.  But their product bombed when it was launched.

9) Mercedes Benz E-Class Sedans were selling only 10% of their Indian-based manufacturing output to Indians.

10) OK, this is a well-known one, but it always makes me laugh….   ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ did not do wonders for sales of the Swedish vacuum-cleaner in the US.

Answers coming on Monday!

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Filed under Business cultur, Globalization

Making sure you get found on the web

It’s very nearly time for the ‘year in review’ articles and special supplements and I have come across an early one: the top 10 Internet searches of the year according to Yahoo.   You can see the full list  at http://yearinreview.yahoo.com/2010/us_top_10_searches#Top%2010%20Searches

but here are the top 3: BP Oil Spill, World Cup and Miley Cyrus.  Also in the Top 10 are 5 more celebrities, a ‘celebrity’-making show and the iPhone.  So my question to you is: do you want to be right up there in such elevated company?  In case you are wondering, the search data for 2010 for Google is not yet available, but Bing also has predominantly celebrities on its top searches list.  My own unscientific sample shows that the most popular of my blog posts is the one entitled ‘Avatar and Anthropology’ – and I bet you can tell which of the two words has got people enthralled, can’t you?!

So here’s the rub.  Entrepreneurs and consultants, retailers and, in short, all those  who need to have an online presence are told to do search engine optimisation, think carefully about keywords, write exciting copy, attend this-and-that sales or marketing course…  All with the ultimate purpose of being easily found by as many people as possible.  But what if people are not really searching for your serious-minded business anyway?  Do you stick to your small audience or do you jump on the bandwagon of popularity and use those trigger words creatively?  For instance, in my case, should I say something like: ‘Justin Bieber is a good example of globalisation and intercultural communication’ (and tag it under ‘Justin Bieber’ rather than ‘globalisation’ – which has a far smaller audience and a different spelling anyway in other parts of the world)?

The temptation is always there to broaden our appeal.  We even find ways to justify it to ourselves (and others) by saying that ‘research needs to come out of its ivory tower’.  Or ‘management gurus need to speak plain language instead of jargon’.  And I completely agree with both of these statements.  But it’s a question of how we do it.  I can think of a handful of people who do it well, but many more who don’t.  Can you?


Filed under Globalization