Yesterday we posted about Toniq Culture Panels and the importance of understanding cultural nuances, languages, consumer and market behavior and how it can make all the difference in creating a successful brand. I thought it would be interesting to post some of the cultural misinterpretations, things that have been "lost in translation", I have come across in my own travels. Yes, some are funny, some may be offensive, and some are just a huge missed opportunity for these businesses.
Ghetto Happy Dining
I don't think this restaurant really understands the meaning of "ghetto". For American and English speaking tourists, this is funny, yet uninviting.
Real Black Music
Ok, you can guess the genre of music they may sell at Sam's, but did they really have to go there and say it with double exclamation marks?
Black Boss (coffee)
This is actually quite a popular canned coffee produced by a major beverage company sold at convenient stores and through vending machines. Yes, it is "black" coffee, but this would definitely not work in markets outside of Japan. This would be considered racially offensive and people would think this was a joke.
This is a "barbecue sauce wiener" that is wrapped in something like a flour tortilla. The idea is that it is "wrapped" so appropriately, they have named this "Rappers". Could you imagine this in the US or Europe? Consumers may think this is targeting a certain consumer musical and/or racial group.
Natural Salt Gerato
This is a frozen dessert item sold through grocery stores and convenient stores. It is positioned as a high-end flavor of gelato for the mass market. Yes, "gelato" not "gerato". Oops, somebody didn't spell check this one before it hit the shelves.
New York, NY
Mei Dick Barber Shop
Okay, enough picking on Japan. Here's one in New York. Unfortunately, this is a phonetic pronunciation name that has become quite a famous photo opportunity for many tourists that go to Chinatown. "Mei" should actually be pronounced "may" based on Chinese pin-ying, but you get why so many people find this funny. Phonetics can take on various pronunciations based on where you are.
New York, NY
Strange Taste Cuisine
Mmmm, sounds appetizing doesn't it? Again, a mis-translation in language has caused quite a laugh at this Chinatown dining spot.
This is an example of a homeland cultural misunderstanding of what "gaudy" actually means. This is a boutique that sells (or perhaps sold, not sure if they are still in business) women's apparel and accessories. Apart from the, trying to be casual, "Dressin'", the word "gaudy" means "extravagantly bright or showy, typically so as to be tasteless" as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Didn't anyone have the nerve to tell the owner about the name?
Heinz Spotted Dick
And lastly, a jump across the pond to the UK. A classic English dessert that just wouldn't work in the US. Even though we speak the same language, to an extent, this is purely a cultural product.
There are a thousand more examples out there and around the world. These are just a few personal pictures documented throughout the years and some of my favorites. Being a Japanese born Chinese who grew up in the US, these cultural mishaps pop out to me everywhere I go. Hope you had a good laugh but also understand the importance of why Toniq offers Culture Panels for companies and brands big and small.
If you have a few you would like to share, please comment below, tweet us @brandeffervesce, post to our facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it on a follow-up Blip.