Saturday, April 25, 2009

Marketing Blunder or Urban Myth?

The cultural factors that can impact consumer behavior include language, demographics, values and nonverbal communications (see Hawkins, et al, 2007, p 40). A cultural faux pas can be an embarrassing experience for professional marketers. The best intentions can be rendered fallacious and instead of a positive projection of its brand, a company can appear like confused Martians.

Many gaffes are humorous and because of this there is also a set of urban myths that have been fabricated. To help avoid these, a literary search of myth busters should be done when reporting on marketing blunders. Here are three that are not urban myths you might find amusing.

Eat Elegancita
Hershey’s Elegancita candy bar is filled with caramel cream, cajeta in Mexican, and covered with chocolate. A popular ad campaign in Mexico was extended to other Latin American countries that spoke Spanish with unfortunate result. Cajeta in Argentina and Uruguay, who speak Castilian Spanish, is a slang term for a women’s vagina.

The singer Thalia tells all that she loves cajeta. (see Hoag, 2005, p 1). Hoag goes on to say “Such linguistic pitfalls, where a common word may be understood in a different way in different countries, happen with some frequency in Spanish.” A contributing factor: there are sixteen different dialects of Spanish (see Spanish Dialects and Varieties) .

This story withstands the scrutiny of an urban myth buster (see About Spanish). This guy does torpedo many other urban myths about marketing gaffes, including allegedly misusing the Spanish language. Nova Myth and Other Urban Myths.

Cultural Confusion at IKEA
Money Magazine (see Bad Translations) reports on IKEA, as does Brand Strategy (2003, p 1). The IKEA bunk bed for children is named Gutvik.

This is a homonym in German for Good Fxxx. Muy Bueno! Just the right name for a children’s product. The Urban Myth busters say that to be fair, the German words are Gut Fick, and the phonetics are slightly different. (see TV Tropes) However, they do cite IKEA for another misstep, marketing the Viren Toilet Brush (see IKEA Catalog) in Finland. The legendary runner Lasse Viren hails from Finland.

Hakkaa päälle, Pohjan poika!

I Could Not Love You More If I Loved Pepsodent Less
Dr. Monica Bolesta at the University of Maryland (2008, p 2) discusses how Pepsodent failed to launch its toothpaste in Southeast Asia because it emphasized the whitening aspects.
Pepsodent wrongly assumed the American cultural preference for white teeth was universal. In Southeast Asia, darkened teeth are considered more attractive and the locals even chew betel nuts to stain their teeth. The betel nut itself is considered a sign of love and longevity (see Betel Nut Smile).

The Culitvated Drink for Apes
Pavane is an upscale bitters distilled and marketed by Bacardi. According to both CNN Money (CNN Bad Translations) and Zouhali-Worrall (2008, p 1) in a Fortune Small Business article, product marketing became a cultural blunder in Germany. The German homonym Pavian means baboon.

Bolesta , Monica (August 22, 2008). Cross-Cultural Awareness: Avoiding Global Marketplace Missteps. Retrieved on April 3, 2009 from

Brand Strategy (May 2003). Global village idiot. Source:Brand Strategy; May2003 Issue 171, p39, 1/9p. Retrieved on EBSCOHOST.

Hawkins, Del, David Mothersbaugh and Roger Best (2007). Consumer Behavior. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Hoag , Christina (03/08/2005). The Miami Herald. Retrieved on April 3, 2009 from EBSCOHOST.

Zouhali-Worrall, Malika (Jul/Aug2008). Watch Your Language! Fortune Small Business. Retrieved on April 3, 2009 from EBSCOHOST.

No comments: