We recently went to Munich, Germany for a Trade Show, and while walking back to the hotel, we came across this assisted senior service vehicle. The company’s acronym, meant to simplify their long name, spells ASS. While their name is certainly what we might call Global Marketing Humor, coming from the U.S., this is an example of a company (offering a very serious type of service) that would probably not do well in the American market. Stumbling upon this reminded me how important it is to truly localize yourself within the country where you are expanding.
Whether you are setting up a new company, globalizing a brand, or conducting a product launch, it is critical to verify if your company name, logo, and/or tagline don’t happen to have a different or unintended meaning in your new target region. Sometimes the best way to appreciate the importance (and cost) something like this can have on a company is to learn from the mistakes of others. Here is a list we gathered from around the web to help illustrate this.
- Braniff International translated a slogan touting its finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather” into Spanish as “Fly Naked.”
- Electrolux at one time marketed its vacuum cleaners in the U.S. with the tag line: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
- Colgate launched toothpaste in France named “Cue” without realizing that it’s also the name of a French pornographic magazine
- Clairol launched a curling iron called “Mist Stick” in Germany even though “mist” is German slang for manure.
- Puffs marketed its tissues under that brand name in Germany even though “puff” is German slang for a brothel.
- Panasonic launched a Web-ready PC with a Woody Woodpecker theme using the slogan “Touch Woody: The Internet Pecker.”
- Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which means “rush to die.”
- Nike had to recall thousands of products when a decoration intended to resemble fire on the back of the shoes resembled the Arabic word for Allah.
- KFC made Chinese consumers a bit apprehensive when “finger licking good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.”
- Paxam, an Iranian consumer goods company, markets laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow,” resulting in packages labeled “Barf Soap.”
Hope these examples of global marketing humor gave you a good laugh but, more importantly, make you aware of how critical localization (adaptation to your local market) is when it comes to your marketing efforts. Be sure to work with an experienced marketing firm if you are launching a product overseas –protect your investment!