Although cruel, cross cultural marketing mistakes are a humorous means of understanding the impact a lack of cultural awareness or bad translations can have on a product or company when doing business abroad.Here are a few classic cross cultural marketing blunders for your enjoyment.
The Japanese company Matsushita Electric was promoting a new PC for internet users. Panasonic created the new web browser and had received a license to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as an interactive internet guide.
The day before the huge marketing campaign, Panasonic realised its error and pulled the plug. Why? The ads for the new product featured the following slogan: "Touch Woody - The Internet Pecker." The company only realized its blunder when an embarrassed expat explained what "touch Woody's pecker" could be interpreted as.
In the late 1970s, Wang, the American computer company could not understand why its British branches were refusing to use its latest motto "Wang Cares". Of course, to British ears this sounds too close to "Wankers" which does not endear customers to you.
There are several examples of companies getting tangled up with bad translations of products due to the word "mist". We had "Irish Mist" (an alcoholic drink), "Mist Stick" (a curling iron from Clairol) and "Silver Mist" (Rolls Royce car) all flopping as "mist" in German means dung/manure. Fancy a glass of Irish dung?
"Traficante" an Italian mineral water found a great reception in Spain's underworld. In Spanish it translates as "drug dealer".
Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent £6 million on a campaign to launch its new 'Bundh' sauces. It received calls from numerous Punjabi speakers telling them that "bundh" sounded just like the Punjabi word for "arse".
Honda introduced their new car "Fitta" into Nordic countries in 2001. If they had taken the time to undertake some cross cultural marketing research they may have discovered that "fitta" was an old word used in vulgar language to refer to a lady's privates in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. In the end they renamed it "Honda Jazz".