It is an undeniable fact that the world is undergoing globalisation, the process of worldwide integration and development. Borders have become simply lines on a map but the people are interconnected and are becoming more so each and every day. Businesses are now able to trade and interact with customers from all over the globe at very high speeds. But like any traveller going to a new place, there is a lot of preparation to be done before an international venture can take place. And sometimes the most unfortunate mistakes can be made…
‘Finger-lickin’ good’ is the famous catchphrase of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the world’s second largest restaurant chain with over 18,000 outlets in 120 countries as of December 2012. In 1987, KFC became the first Western fast food company to open an outlet in China and was described by Clifford Conan of The Irish Times as ‘by far the most pervasive symbol of Western culture in China’. However, their mission to become a global brand wasn’t always smooth sailing as their Chinese endeavour started with a very funny but silly mistranslation. Upon opening the new outlet in Beijing, the classic slogan was accidentally translated to ‘We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off’, not the most pleasant of thoughts when trying to pick out your lunch.
Another example of an overseas slip-up was by another brand you may quickly recognise. In 1984, Toyota released their brand new sports car model, the MR2, which sold over 109559 units in Japan alone between 1984 and 1999. However, the situation turned out to be very different in France where only 1178 units were sold in that same period. One of the reasons for this may be due to the pronunciation of the name in French (Em-Er-Duh). Unfortunately for Toyota, this pronunciation was in fact the word for poo. So next time you try and advertise a car in France, avoiding toilet references in the product name may be a step in the right direction.
Luckily these two cases occurred long in the past and large corporations have been diligent to avoid these mishaps. But their mistakes are not only a lesson to be learned for future foreign ventures but have also been an amusing way to throwback to the training wheels of 20th Century globalisation.