Cultural faux pas creating nightmares
It can be a good giggle reading through a list of missteps made by international brands in local markets. But, after the laughs subside, you should remember that even the most established of international brands blunder occasionally, so you should be vigilant when you create a brand communications strategy.
Direct translations may miss the mark
There is no shortage of examples regarding translation fails in marketing. From Gerber sounding like the French word for “vomit” to Pepsi Cola’s “Come Alive with Pepsi” being translated literally into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead” in Chinese. Or the American Dairy Association asking South Americans “Are Your Lactating?”, instead of “Got Milk?”
Most recently, Coca-Cola tried to embrace the local culture with “”Kia ora, mate”, intending to say “Greetings, mate”. Unfortunately, “ma-te” in Maori means “death”.
Certain historical references are taboo…..
In a case of being tone deaf to local history, the UK sportswear maker Umbro named a new line of footwear “Zyklon”, without realizing (or researching possibly) that that is the name of the gas used by the Nazis during WWII at the concentration camps.
Similar ignorance or insensitivity also recently occurred in Japan. Disney Japan tweeted an image of Alice, from Alice in Wonderland, celebrating a “merry unbirthday” with “congratulations on a trifling day” message. Unfortunately, they sent this tweet out on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.
….as well as religious ones
Sometimes, a faux pas is committed unintentionally. Nike had to recall a line of footwear when someone noticed that the flame decoration in the back of the shoes looked like the word “Allah” written in Arabic.
Heineken perhaps thought it was celebrating all the participants in the 1994 World Cup by including all the flags on their labels. The problem was, the Saudi Arabia flag contains a religious verse –this offended Muslims who were insulted by their religious being associated with alcoholic beverages.
Even maps aren’t safe
Both the Gap and Marriott International ran afoul of China when they, one through a t-shirt, the other through their website, depicted a map of China that did not include regions that the Chinese government claimed. This may be considered more a geo-political than a cultural issue, but it still has cultural ramifications.
Coca-Cola, likewise, could not win for losing when its holiday messages included a Russian map that didn’t include the Crimea. When they reissued the message including Crimea, Coca-Cola was boycotted in the Ukraine. (A little history – Russian annexed the Crimea from the Ukraine in 2014 and it has been a political powder keg ever since.)
PROI is comprised of communications experts and digital natives from all over the world
Simple misspelled words and cultural insensitivities can ruin your company’s chances in entering foreign markets. No amount of research trumps knowledge from natives of these countries.
PROI can help you with that. We know, live, and breathe our own languages and cultures. ASEAN, especially, is a region full of historical and cultural nuances. We make sure clients launch campaigns that are relevant and politically appropriate for these countries. You don’t have to worry anymore about cultural faux paus and campaign nightmares. Shoot us a message today to unlock the unlimited potential of Southeast Asia.