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I have been around the block a few times and have a lot of stories I remember about marketing mistakes by companies when expanding abroad. I have a few here and I hope you can add a few on.

Starbucks, who doesn't love a great latte in the morning? Latte means milk in Italy, in english it means coffee drink. Okay those are fine... But in German the word latte means erection. Yes, so when you go out and say you would like a morning latte, some people might be thinking something else.

Lost in translation: The Nintendo character donkey kong was supposed to be Monkey Kong, but the smuged fax paper they received in America made it look like donkey kong.

Many candybar makers have had trouble marketing products to the Asian countries because it a cultural belief that peanuts and chocolate cause nosebleeds. In fact, peanuts and chocolate are something many Chinese are allergic to, but that could be the reason why they experience such nosebleeds, not because of the mixture itself. They only avoid them to prevent nosebleeds, no scientific research has shown that they do cause nosebleeds, don't worry. Eat up!

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Matsushita Electric was promoting a Japanese PC for internet users. It came with a Japanese Web browser courtesy of Panasonic. Panasonic had licensed the cartoon character "Woody Woodpecker" as the "Internet guide."

The day before a huge marketing campaign was to begin, Panasonic stopped the product launch. The reason: the ads featured the slogan "Touch Woody - The Internet Pecker." An American at the internal product launch explained to the stunned and embarrassed Japanese what "touch woody" and "pecker" meant in American slang.

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I've heard of an American bottled water company that wanted to expand business to Russia.  They came up with a new brand name in Russian that translates to "deep blue".  Unfortunately, that Russian word is one letter away from a word that means "puke".  Sales were poor.

I'm not sure if this was a real marketing predicament, but I've heard the joke, "Why doesn't the Chevy Nova sell well in Mexico?" "Porque no va!" ("No va" in Spanish means "it doesn't go".  To Spanish speakers, a car named "it doesn't go" would sound a little iffy to be buying!)

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There was an Italian restaurant in Shanghai called Va Bene, meaning "OK" in English. It wasn't very popular because when pronounced properly in Italian, the name sounds exactly like "Not Cheap" in Shanghainese dialect!

"Va be ne" (I wrote it more or less phonetically) is the Shanghainese equivalent of the Mandarin "bù piányi" (不便宜)! No wonder the customers never came in large numbers!

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Scribendi: World-Class Editing and Proofreading
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In Africa, many products label ingredients with pictures rather than text, due to illiteracy etc.  Well, Gerber baby food wanted to expand to Africa, and of course they have a wonder picture of a  cute, healthy baby on the front. Well, you can see how THIS would be a problem in a country where ingredients are labelled pictorially.

There's an urban myth that the NOVA car never sold in Mexico or Latin American countries because No Vas in Spanish means "won't go".  It's a prominent myth, but a myth nonetheless.

On the flip side, VISA is so-named because it's the only word that doesn't have any unfortunate meaning in another language.

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Walmart actually opened in Indo and failed .One of the reason was coz of the big demonstration in 1998,the store got looted so bad .But in my opinion ,It wouldn't do any good. In Indo, stores like Walmart doesn't stand alone. It's actually INSIDE a mall. You want to go to grocery shopping,at same time you also want to go to mall so you go the super center store in there.

Same thing with most fast food restaurant in Indo,they all have to be in the mall or they won't generate much customers. People won't just drive to eat in Pizza Hut and drive somewhere else especially when they know there's another Pizza Hut in the mall! Our movie theaters are all in the mall as well. Heck,we even have an ice skating ring in the mall.

Anything in Indo has to be about convenient.

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In many cases the problem is not the language at all when it comes to market a product or service, but the company itself.

Medium to large companies use to have proofreaders for their labels to avoid grammar mistakes, and the same department use to handle the names for the same product when marketed abroad to avoid any chance to get the word confused with, let's says "erection" cited first in this thread.

It's a shame that a world-famous company like Starsbuck would not detect the impact of the word "latte" in the German market, where other company would obviously change it for something more appropriate.

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Ha ha, I was doing some work on this subject in university a short while ago and the issues that companies have when moving into a new market. Even the largest of companies with all of their experience make the worst mistakes.

The example that stands out was from Ikea when the developed a new workbench and introduced it to England.. they called the bench 'Fart' ... which is the English word for the noise that often comes from a mans bottom.

They didn't sell many :-)

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I've heard of an American bottled water company that wanted to expand business to Russia.  They came up with a new brand name in Russian that translates to "deep blue".  Unfortunately, that Russian word is one letter away from a word that means "puke".  Sales were poor.

I'm not sure if this was a real marketing predicament, but I've heard the joke, "Why doesn't the Chevy Nova sell well in Mexico?" "Porque no va!" ("No va" in Spanish means "it doesn't go".  To Spanish speakers, a car named "it doesn't go" would sound a little iffy to be buying!)

Those are great examples.  Never heard the Russian one, but actually I have heard the issue with the Chevy Nova.  Whether it was a true marketing topic or part of urban lore, that story has made it around the world several times. 

I never thought of this an issue, but I guess a manufacturer has to think about their market before releasing brands or slogans.

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I'm pretty sure that companies change their names respectively on a country to country basis, for example the German example you gave for Latte they actually change the name to Coffee instead, so it's not all that bad!

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Locum was a Swedish company, and one Christmas in the 90s they sent out Christmas cards with their company name, but replaced the "o" with a heart.

So it read:

l<3cum

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Hahaha, that's great, @ollie ! I'd love to see a photo of that.

Apparently in Mexico, there is a bit of an issue with the translation of "Got Milk?" -- it comes across to them as, "Are you lactating?" which likely does not inspire the thirst the marketer's expected.

One that I've always found hilarious is from a while back - maybe some older folks remember this slogan -- "Come alive with Pepsi!" Well, in Chinese, this translated to: "Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead!" FALSE ADVERTISING! ;)

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Locum was a Swedish company, and one Christmas in the 90s they sent out Christmas cards with their company name, but replaced the "o" with a heart.

So it read:

l<3cum

This one I've never heard before, and I have to say that's pretty freakin' funny.  :laugh: At least it was vague enough that I don't think kids would have picked up on it, but it must have been pretty confusing to some of the adults.

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I'll be careful of how I use "latte" if I ever visit Germany.

Many people know of brands such as Samsung and General Electric, that are associated with household appliances. There's a fairly new brand known as Mabe, that had a hard time in some parts of the world because the brand name was pronounced as "Maybe". No in those countries wanted to buy a fridge or stove that would probably not work.

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One that I've always found hilarious is from a while back - maybe some older folks remember this slogan -- "Come alive with Pepsi!" Well, in Chinese, this translated to: "Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead!" FALSE ADVERTISING! ;)

According to snopes, that's not necessarily true -- there's a lack of details (contemporary news accounts, Pepsi actions to fix that mistake, which Chinese dialect this is about) that might mean it's fake, but there's really not enough information either way.

The slogan was also "Come alive! You're in the Pepsi Generation", which is a tad bit different with "Come alive with Pepsi".

Guys, have you ever heard about http://www.engrish.com/ ??

:tongue:

I love that website, it always makes me spend ages laughing really hard whenever I visit it.

I'll be careful of how I use "latte" if I ever visit Germany.

Me too!  :laugh:

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ollie, that's so funny :laugh:. Another marketing mistake that springs to my mind is in the case of the Romanian SUV Dacia Duster. They've probably thought that it's a cool name for an off-road vehicle but we all know that "duster" is another name for a vacuum cleaner and it also means dusting rag, not cool names for a car :tongue:. Also the Growler E concept car has a very uninspired name as "growler", in slang, means vagina. :devil:

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I don't know about you guys, but up to now it still remains a mystery to me as to how this one got away from proofreading or quality check

2rd_zps7cc2eba1.jpg

I work in graphics design and I've made a good number of minor mistakes such as these already. I think it just happens when the project is too rushed or the designer is too tired, but still, the bosses should really put in better quality checkers above the designers especially when they are selling a product that focuses on words.

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Well, all these mistakes make me think of the Dutch 'Lassie toverrijst' debacle.

Lassie is a brand of parboiled rice that only takes a few minutes to cook, and it is never sticky. It is often called 'magic rice' and 'quick boiling rice'

It is very popular in the Netherlands because the Dutch do not like their rice to be sticky at all.

Quite a few years ago, the 'Lassie' firm tried to get popular in Japan.

What they failed to do was, to change their slogan!

So they actually tried to sell the Lassie brand in Japan, using the slogan: "Quick and never sticks"

Well, what they did not know at the time was, that the Japanese do not like their rice to be dry at all. In fact they like sticky rice and even prefer it.

Albeit to make riceballs I suppose. You cannot make rice balls out of sticky rice.

The Lassie people should have known ...

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