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Carpe carp!

This is Latin for "seize the fish!"

In this every increasing world of global diversity where goods and services transfer across different cultures and socioeconomic demographics, it's important for homeland marketers to understand the prefixes that their marketing messages may hold or translate to when selling into another trade region.

Here are some of the most talked about classic cross-cultural marketing blunders:

The Japanese company Matsushita Electric was promoting a new Japanese PC for internet users. Panasonic created the new web browser and had received license to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as an interactive internet guide. The day before the huge marketing campaign, Panasonic realized 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 realized what it had done when an embarrassed American explain what "touch Woody's pecker" could be interpreted as!

The word "mist" seems to get many companies into trouble. Poorly thought through uses of the name in Germany has resulted in "Irish Mist" (an alcoholic drink), "Mist Stick" (a curling iron from Clairol), "Cashmere Mist" (deodorant from Donna Karen) and "Silver Mist" (Rolls Royce car). "Mist" in German means dung or manure.

Traficante
, an Italian mineral water found a great reception in Spain's underworld. In Spanish it translates as "drug dealer".

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".

When Pepsico advertised Pepsi in Taiwan with the ad "Come Alive With Pepsi" they had no idea that it would be translated into Chinese as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead."

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Ok, so you get the point. Plenty of companies have made a lot of cross-cultural mistakes when advertising to cultures outside their primary. How do you avoid such marketing catastrophes? Don't put up a trophy of a cat ass, for one. (Btw, this pun reference comes from the Piers Anthony Xanth novel series.)

Har har, for real...

1. Hire a translator who has lived and worked in the country/region you want to sell to.

2. If you're in a tough squeeze (e.g., no marketing budget), at least look up the phrases you want to use in a multi-language dictionary such as the KudoZ Open Glossary which offers up a field to search for slang definitions.

3. Read up on multicultural practices.

4. Visit a cross-cultural event in your area, observe and interact.

5. Don't become a case example for college students when your marketing campaign fails due to a cultural misunderstanding.
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