Using Market Research To Avoid Cultural Clangers

Even large corporates make mistakes!! Following on from our post outlining “10 tips for conducting research in Asia”, the examples below show, products and brands don’t always travel to foreign climes without any changes to packaging or branding. With increasing globalization, the world market is a huge opportunity but make sure you carry out diligent market research before launching into a new geography; the cost of such mistakes cannot easily be counted.

1) Kellogg’s launch of cornflakes in India was a disaster. Indians don’t eat cold breakfasts, and hot milk turns the cereal into slop.

2) Pizza Hut struggled in India too, as Italian flavours were unknown. The introduction of a “tandoori” pizza topping quadrupled sales.

3) Coors translated its slogan, “Turn it loose”, into Spanish, where it became “Suffer from diarrhoea”.

4) Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick;’ a curling iron, in Germany only to find out that “mist” is German for manure.

5) When Gerber first sold baby food in Africa, it used its US packaging. But in Africa, companies depict the contents on the label, as most people can’t read leading some to think it was tinned baby.

6) PepsiCo’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

7) Microsoft’s Windows 95 included a map of Asia with Kashmir coloured differently from India. The product was banned, requiring a rewrite and re-launch costing tens of millions of dollars. Slip-ups occurred in Korea, Kurdistan and China too. Microsoft upset entire populations of women as well. In an unfortunate mistranslation, a Spanish-language version of Windows XP destined for Latin America asked users to select their gender as “not specified;’ “male” or “bitch”.

8 ) McDonald’s India faced a challenge selling burgers to a vegetarian nation. It solved the problem by stocking the McAloo Tikki Burger under the slogan “A 100 per cent veggie experience”.

9) The US Army tried to win over locals in Afghanistan by distributing footballs covered in world flags. Oops! As the Saudi flag contains verses from the Koran, including the word “Allah”, local imams were outraged at the blasphemy

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