How NOT to go global
Going Global ...But Carefully
Classic blunders made by
marketers rushing in to pursue global markets without doing their homework.
By David Little, TCI Associate
These are the nominees for the Chevy Nova Award. This is given out in honour of
GM's fiasco in trying to market this car in Central and South America. "No va"
means, of course, in Spanish, "it doesn't go".
- The Dairy Association's
huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising
to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read
"Are you lactating?"
- Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it was
read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."
- Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in
an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
- Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron, into
Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people
had use for the "Manure Stick."
- When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the
same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label. Later they
learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of
what's inside, since many people can't read.
- Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of
a notorious porno magazine.
- An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the
Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope"
(el Papa), the shirts read "I Saw the Potato" (la papa).
- Pepsi's "Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation" translated into
"Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave" in Chinese.
- The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Kekoukela",
meaning "Bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending
on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic
equivalent "kokou kole", translating into "happiness in the mouth."
- Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "It takes a strong man to make a
tender chicken" was translated into Spanish as "it takes an aroused man to
make a chicken affectionate."
- When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were
supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." The
company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass,
so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant!"
- When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first
class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its "Fly In Leather" campaign
literally, which meant "Fly Naked" (vuela en cuero) in Spanish!