Sunday, August 8, 2010

Communication Errors and Marketing Blunders, 1

Living in a foreign country and teaching English can lead to some riotous language mistakes. Like when my student pronounced A as in 'father' and forgot the 's' sound in X, and "faxed my daughter". Got a real double-take out of me. Or like the time when I added an 'm' sound to the Japanese word for sweetened bean paste and told my wife in the middle of a crowded train station that I'd just eaten her cousin's, well, bean paste.... Heads turned!

But some of my favorite lessons are when we take a look at international business blunders made by companies that drop the ball and either don't bother to research any possible cultural and slang meanings of products they hope to sell in new markets, or have paid a fair chunk of change to translators (in-house or out) that claim to speak the language but don't make the cultural connections.

Without further ado, let's look at some more blunders like the Matsushita Electric/Panasonic "Touch Woody - The Internet Pecker" of my last post:

Anyone remember Swedish vacuum cleaner maker Electrolux's '70s advertising campaign slogan, "Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux!"

Swedish company locum sent out Christmas cards to their customers in 1991 to which they decided to add a little holiday cheer by replacing the 'O' in the company name with a heart - I(heart)cum Talk about holiday cheer! - see above

Gerber products aren't carried in French-speaking countries, because gerber is the French word for "vomiting". And when their baby-food bottles were introduced in some African countries, which traditionally put pictures of the product on packaging for those who can't read, it led to quite a bit of confusion... What's in there?

Wang Computers found its British distributors refusing to use its latest motto: "Wang Cares", which sounds just too close to "wankers" for comfort. And then we have the American meaning of "wang"...

There is a massage stand in the local mall here which has the following in 12-inch letters on the mall-facing glass wall: "Hand Care, Foot Care, Horny Care" I think they'll need curtains for that one...

Honda introduced a new model car, the "Fitta" into Nordic countries in 2001, but had to rename it the "Jazz" when they learned that the word 'fitta' is a vulgur word for a woman's genitals in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Wow, what a ride!

Mitsubishi's Pajero had to be renamed for Latin American markets, since 'pajero' means 'wanker' in many Spanish dialects, and which, according to Urban Dictionary, also carries the added meaning of "one who plays with himself". Not exactly a chick magnet

Coors' slogan, "Turn it Loose!" was translated into Spanish as "Suffer from Diarrhea". Sounds about right.

And a detour sign found in Kyushu, Japan: "Stop! Drive sideways."

Don't worry, I've got lots of these - more later...

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