Cross Cultural Marketing Mishaps

Good afternoon EMBA class of 2014. After going with many of my fellow classmates and spouses this weekend to South Coast Repertory to see the play Chinglish it inspired me to create a blog on cross cultural marketing mishaps.  For those of us that have seen Chinglish the examples below reinforce the importance of working reputable firms that have a great understanding of both their own cultural as well as the one they are interpreting for.

Please read the ten examples below and let me know think!

  • Locum is a Swedish company. As most companies do at Christmas they sent out Christmas cards to customers. In 1991 they decided to give their logo a little holiday spirit by replacing the “o” in Locum with a heart. You can see the result..


  • The Japanese company Matsushita Electric was promoting a new Japanese 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 realised its cross cultural blunder when an embarrassed American explain what “touch Woody’s pecker” could be interpreted as!
  • The Swedish furniture giant IKEA somehow agreed upon the name
    “FARTFULL” for one of its new desks. Enough said..
  • 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 would not
    really give a very positive image to any company.
  • 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”.
  • In 2002, Umbro a UK sports manufacturer had to withdraw its new
    trainers (sneakers) called the Zyklon. The firm received complaints from many
    organizations and individuals as it was the name of the gas used by the Nazi
    regime to murder millions of Jews in concentration camps.
  • Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent 6 million pounds 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 or ass”.
  • 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 woman’s genitals in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. In
    the end they renamed it “Honda Jazz”.
  • A nice cross cultural example of the fact that all pictures or symbols are not interpreted the same across the world: staff at the African port of Stevadores
    saw the “internationally recognised” symbol for “fragile” (i.e. broken wine glass) and presumed it was a box of broken glass. Rather than waste space they threw all the boxes into the sea!



Consumer Research: Is there an algorithm for that?

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 1.58.55 PM

How does a company know what consumers want? In the case of Nexflix, executives simply look at the selection of videos that consumers choose to watch.

Last year, NPR produced a segment on the importance of algorithms as a critical aspect of Netflix’s consumer research. The company uses algorithms to analyze consumer choices, and armed with that consumer research, the company then personalizes an individual’s Netflix queue.

Netflix is banking that this personalized strategy helps maintain high consumer satisfaction.

“Every time a Netflix member streams a title from us, we learn a little bit more about what’s interesting to them,” said John Ciancutti, vice president of engineering at Netflix, in the NPR article.

Netflix is not alone in its use of algorithms.  Facebook also uses algorithms to moderate sponsored posts that appear in an individual’s news feed.

But Netflix has taken it to another level—but using consumer research to create shows of its own. Consider the series $100 million “House of Cards” series featuring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright: Netflix reports the series is the most popular show on its streaming service.

One can argue that Netflix needed to innovate and create House of Cards to stay ahead of the pack, given competition from companies such as Amazon. It seems to be working: Netflix’s strategy has resulted in revenue growth, and the company reports an increase in subscribers for its streaming services. Given this growth, perhaps Netflix’s algorithms will help the company maintain its competitive advantage.

–Team D (Bobby Hangar and Rachanee Srisavasdi)

When all else fails, choose “organic” potato chips

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.14.28 AMIndividuals who try to eat healthy have the best of intentions, but sometimes don’t know how to make the best choices.

That’s when marketing for “healthy” food products enter the picture. Food companies have learned to capitalize on consumers’ desire for fitness by marketing their products accordingly, using language such as “organic” or “heart healthy.” (Such labeling is regulated. For example, products that carry an “organic” label must get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. )

Such marketing is based on consumer research that consumers prefer healthy options. Consider a 2011 study that indicates U.S. consumers prefer “organic” potato chips vs. regular potato chips.

The preference to eat healthy crosses borders, as indicated by a 2012 study in Thailand of 390 persons and their food consumption patterns. The study notes the increased demand for organic food, which has resulted in the growth of the organic farming sector in the country.

“Results indicated that the main reasons for purchasing organic food products are an expectation of a healthier and environmentally friendly means of production. Organic buyers tend to be older and higher educated than those who do not buy them,’’ according to the study.

Unfortunately, opting for healthy food may not be a sustainable strategy for some consumers. Research conducted in 2010 indicates that some individuals will remain hungry after eating food labeled as healthy.

“People who were given a food sample described as healthy rated they were hungrier than those who were given the same sample framed as tasty and delicious,” the authors write.

Is this due to smaller portion sizes? Perhaps, but there exists other explanations. We argue that healthy food labeling can’t make healthy food taste better than fattening food, such as a slice of apple pie a la mode. A slice of pie is completely satisfying based on taste (though it may make us feel less guilty if that pie was labeled “organic.”)

– Team D (Bobby Hangar and Rachanee Srisavasdi)


News Flash – Marketing Wars have been declared. We are at DEFCON 1.

“Gentlemen! Start your engines.”  A famous introduction heard to start some of the most prestigious auto racing events like the Indianapolis 500.  Historic races have pinned the highly favored No. 1 racer going against the promising field.

No, war has not been declared on a sporting event, but instead it is being declared in the highly competitive internet radio market featuring No. 1 – Pandora being challenged by the smaller No. 3 – Slacker.

Marketing wars have been the stuff of legends, and one of the greatest battles featured rental car underdog AVIS going head-to-head against the almighty giant, Hertz.  In one of the most memorable marketing wars ever declared, a nearly bankrupt AVIS launched its long-running ad campaign, “We try harder,” against Hertz.  AVIS turned its business around, not only saving the company, but earning itself the marketing respect and admiration of the corporate world.

In 1962, Hertz was the leading rental car provider followed by a number of distant competitors, including AVIS.  AVIS was losing money, and the company realized that consumers had not understood the value and benefits of their brand.  When AVIS hired world renowned marketing agency DDB, the advertising execs asked AVIS execs why rental car patrons weren’t choosing AVIS.  Unsure why patrons weren’t responding to the AVIS brand, DDB first interviewed executives and employees before discussing any ad campaigns, and made the recommendation to restructure its business.

DDB took AVIS through three steps that would be the basis to gain market share:

  • Step 1 – Before running any AVIS ads the company had to overhaul their customer service department and upgrade their product portfolio.
  • Step 2 – AVIS executives were forced to answer, “Why does anyone ever rent a car from you?”  Their response gave the company clarity as to the direction of their campaign, and they answered, “We try harder because we have to”.
  • Step 3 – Create employee involvement and support.  Each worker received copies of the ads before they were run in an effort to get their involvement and support.

These three steps led AVIS to launch its campaign from a position of strength, rather than from a position of weakness.  During the campaign, AVIS changed its brand to the “right choice” for rental car services going from an 11% market share to a 35% market share.

Slacker AdSlacker finds itself in a very unique position as they must prove to their core audience and potential internet radio listeners that they have to try harder than its competition to earn their business.  Slacker recently launched its internet ad, a 30-second sling against Pandora which finds a young women opening a blue “Pandora’s box” labeled “P,” in reference to Pandora’s app icon.  As she sits with a friend at a coffee shop, the box opens with an annoying song playing, and patrons can hear the women complain to her friend on how “it plays that over and over again,” blaming Pandora for the “small music library.”  Looking at her phone, the friend points out that Slacker has 10 times as many songs, and features.

US Monthly InternetSlacker offers free, ad-supported Internet radio with a two tier premium service subscriptions.  Listeners can choose the Slacker Radio Plus for $3.99 a month that excludes ads, and includes ABC News, ESPN radio, unlimited song skips, download stations on mobile, and complete song lyrics.  If you prefer a premium service, subscribers can choose Slacker Premium for $9.99 a month that includes all the Plus features and plays songs and albums on demand, single artist stations, download playlists on mobile, and create playlists.

Live AVIS, Slacker is struggling with consumers understanding its brand as they have been slow to react.  Slacker currently has over 4 million monthly users, however only 560,000 pay a monthly subscription.  Compare that to Pandora, which enjoys more than 65 million users a month with 20 million monthly subscribers.  Pandora is the leading internet radio provider, however roughly 90% of its revenue comes from ad-based sources while subscription revenue accounts for just 10% of total revenue.

US Monthly Internet #2Slacker is banking on its large music library, and its ability to provide unlimited access to its music library to increase its user base, especially its subscription based users.  Pandora is struggling to build a profitable business as the company has to pay high royalty fees for any music heard by listeners.  Pandora is currently lobbying congress to restrict the amount of royalty fees charged to internet radio company’s that would improve its bottom line, and many industry analysts are skeptical of the company’s ability to survive if the legislation is not passed.

US Monthly Internet #3Slackers core audience are the 18-to-44 year olds, slightly more females than males, and the company is creating a brand based on the consumers listening experience.  Current listeners are responding by confirming that Slackers personalized approach to music is better than others, like Pandora who use algorithm calculations to create musical playlists.

Industry analysts and music lovers are listening carefully to see how this plays out.  Do you think that Slackers will be the AVIS of the internet radio market?

Global marketing management

Marketing management is key to the achievement of aspirations, it is in general factor of economy improvement and of course before that  companies, employees, and workers , and we believe according to that marketing management is  the most important player in economy field  with important role of managing the economy all over the world.

On the other hand B2B is one of the most important player in marketing management because it is build on business ​​among different companies and huge amounts of money not only that but also it could be among  companies in other countries.

So B2B represents the concept of the global village, which refuses to restrictions and limitations and is based on building strong relationships both internally and externally, Value satisfies all parties, including consumer.              
For example transportation, manufacturing, banking communications and with more details we can see new task buying modified rebuy straight rebuy with cooperative systems.

Consumer Involvement Marketing – from A to E-Ticket


You shop. Sometimes because you have. Sometimes because you want to.

But how involved are you in your consumer choices? What drives you to look beyond a storefront, product or service, and… stay with them?

Over the next few weeks Team E-Ticket will be exploring acquisition to brand loyalty, to experiential involvement, and we invite you to think about how at each stage you as a consumer interact with the brands in your life.


Next time: A. Acquisition.

B2B challenges


Team “F” in the house!!! Better known as Bryan and Nabih. Here to make a splash and hope to provoke some great discussions on marketing, specifically B2B marketing.  This blog opens the discussion of the challenges in B2B marketing.


EXAMPLE of the Unknown with the competition: As in Harvard case study, Barco  Projection Systems (BPS), there were some significant challenges and tough decisions to their leadership had to make. Their COO Erik Dejonghe had to make some very critical decisions that could potentially a tremendous ripple effect and potentially lead to the demise of Barco’s strongest business line. I would say a loss of 75% of forecasted profits is quite damaging and likely fatal.   The unknown of what Sony had up it’s sleeve was the toughest part. A preemptive move, either significantly over or under shooting, which damaging implications either way. Being boxed in is difficult and making those tough decisions is where true leadership is unveiled  Unfortunately, even with the  best leadership, good decisions can made yet, yield a negative outcome.

Buying Situations: As reflected in Chapter 7 – Straight Rebuy, Modified Rebuy, New Task:  There are challenges with each one of these. Straight Rebuy, keeping the business customer happy, staying connected, having strong communication and building loyalty takes a lot of work. Showing that despite competitors and price fluctuation, there is a significantly value add to the relationship.  Modified Rebuy, dealing with customers that are always be shopping you, asking for the product to be constantly modified. These kind of customers may be more work than they are worth, and determining that is another challenge. The New Task is in my opinion the most challenging. There is no repore, prices have to be extremely competitive, and creating that connection to the right people – past the gate keepers is the hardest part. This is where companies must utilize their best resources, most knowledgeable experts and leaders which can sell not only the product but the value of the product AND the relationship.



Are You Listening?

Ever wonder if you’re marketing message is being heard?  The Chicago-based media group The Onion, created a marketing-focused offshoot in 2012 called Onion Labs to identify if audiences where hearing marketing messages.  The big brands where taking notice of Onion Labs, and their research.

Marketing Blog - The Onion LogoThe Onion is a “news” paper that was launched in 1988 that mocks real news items with humorous headlines becoming masters of satire and rambunctious wit.  The Onion is popular in bars and cafés as many of its followers read their stories on smartphones.  Popular among the Gen Xers and Yers, Onion Labs was created to understand if the papers message was reaching the millennials, who are the 18-to-34-year-olds.

According to staff writer Molly Soat of the American Marketing Association, brands big and small are in hot pursuit of millennials, who now encompass that marketing sweet spot, but it’s a hard audience to reach.  In her recent article, Onion Labs: Success by Self-Deprecation, Soat describes how “millennials are notoriously ad-blind, shunning—or simply not noticing—print or Web ads, or speeding past TV commercials with their DVRs.  To get their attention, marketing teams continue to experiment with a tech-heavy mix of tools such as Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts and videos in hopes of becoming a household (or dorm room) name.  But regardless of the tool or channel that marketers choose to use, one trend is quickly accelerating amongst Gen-Y-focused brands: content marketing—often the more ridiculous, the better.”

In the past, young consumers were often motivated by the use of humor, peppering print ads with pop-culture references or filming TV spots full of slapstick.  That market has now changed as “viral videos” are the king of persuasion.  Just look at the brands like Old Spice and Red Bull, who have created brand-focused messaging that consumers wanted to share with their peers.  These content-heavy brands are becoming bolder, and even poking fun at themselves, admitting their shortcomings, and revealing the human side as they try to connect with their audience.

The Onion recently discovered the power of bold when recent headlines read “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” and “Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.”  If you’re wondering how powerful this media group has become The Onion sports 5 million Twitter followers with 90% of its audience falling into the age group of 18-to-44-year-olds, 26% have household incomes over $100,000, and 35% have advanced degrees.

When Microsoft Corp. was launching Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) in 2012, the company admitted “…that our traditional marketing efforts didn’t work as well in this audience because they’re so skeptical of us.”  Microsoft partnered with The Onion to design a marketing campaign that was effective in reaching the millennials.  What happened next was unexpected as The Onion sent Microsoft 40 different ideas designed to make people laugh, in fact Microsoft exec’s where caught off guard and described many of the ideas as being “completely out of left field,” but they appreciated their approach of not catering to corporate sensibility.

Marketing Blog - Uninstall
“Uninstall” Campaign – Click photo to view video.

The new campaign started with an online video of a young man with his therapist hating Internet Explorer (IE).  The young man flashes back forcibly uninstalling IE from his friends and families computers saying the only thing that IE is good for is downloading other internet browsers.  The video ends with him saying, “IE9 is actually good.”  The “BrowserYou Loved to Hate” video appeared on Microsofts Tumblr site dedicated to IE9 reinvention, and got an average viewership of 2.6 times per unique visitor, 765,000 YouTube views, over 14,000 Facebook “Likes” and more than 5,200 Twitter mentions.

If you’re wondering about the results of the marketing campaign, IE9 has over 2 billion users.

It’s a brave new world, and the marketplace is changing.  Are you ready to be bold, and different?  Ready to make your target audience laugh?