Notable international marketing mistakes:
- The brand Vicks sounds very similar to a German word with sexual implications
- Proctor & Gamble used a TV commercial in Japan that was popular in Europe. The ad showed a woman bathing, her husband entering the bathroom and touching her. The Japanese considered this ad an invasion of privacy, inappropriate behavior and overall in very poor taste.
- Lebron James, a kung fu master and Nike. Let just say that this was not a successful venture into the Chinese markets.
- Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast Asia by emphasizing that is whitens teeth. They found out that the local natives chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth, which they find attractive.
- The US hand gesture for “OK” is not OK in South America
- GM attempting to sell their Chevy Nova in Mexico despite the fact that “no va” in Spanish means “no go.”
- Gerber having a problem in France, since “gerber” can be translated to mean “to vomit” in French.
- Traficante, an Italian mineral water, was able to find great success in Spain’s underworld because it translates to “drug dealer”
- Fresca means “lesbian” in Mexico.
- Honda’s Fitta had to be renamed to Honda Jazz in Nordic countries as “fitta” was an old word used in vulgar language to refer to a woman’s genitals in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.
- Coors slogan “Turn It Loose” translated in Spanish meant “Suffer From Diarrhea.”
Simple, automated translation, which does not account for cultural differences, is a costly error that brands can’t afford.
Recently, P&G created an insightful and accurate multicultural, multilingual, multinational marketing campaign. The P&G’s Olympic campaign started with an internationally universal idea, what it takes to raise an Olympian. The campaign told the personal stories of 19 athletes who as a whole spoke 11 languages. The campaign respected diverse cultural expectations and languages by localizing their videos into 12 global languages.
3 tips for creating an international marketing strategy:
1. Build A Global Strategy … From The Beginning
First your company needs to decide if you want to compete and target international markets. Think global. If you consider doing this from the beginning, you won’t make the mistake of forgetting it. It all begins with awareness and ends with research. Conduct international market research. This way you know your message will resonate with your local and target market.
Marketing in Canada, most national firms already have to consider multiple languages. Also, when marketing in urban settings, marketers can target different cultures and utilize different languages. Too often, brands determine their taglines in English only. Only once they begin expanding beyond domestic borders do they realize that the phrasing is awkward or offensive, or it simply doesn’t make sense in an international market.
2. Engage Local Stakeholders
Effective global marketing requires local voices. Insert stakeholders. Work with local sources as often as you can. These local stakeholders can help you create an accurate multicultural brand identity with proper style guides, glossaries, and sample translations. They can also help to brainstorm campaign concepts and translate creative elements.