A great interview with Andy Chuang of Goodcharacters.com in Fresno, California. His company specializes in Chinese naming and linguistic evaluation. The interview was conducted by Steve Rivkin; here’s an excerpt:
For example, Toshiba once had a commercial song in China that sang, Toshiba, Toshiba
However, it turned out that to-shi-ba sounded like let’s steal it (tou-chu-ba) in Mandarin Chinese. People really made fun of it.
Fortunately, Toshiba is a Japanese name and its corresponding characters, Dong-Ji, means the East and nobility. Now Toshiba uses Dong-Ji more and is careful when using the pronunciation of Toshiba.
Some brand names travel more easily than others. Here are a few common war stories of brands that didn’t fare so well abroad:
A food company named its giant burrito a BURRADA. Big mistake. The colloquial meaning of that word is “big mistake.”
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the PINTO flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted the name Corcel, which means “horse.”
A leading brand of car de-icer in Finland will never make it in America. The brand name: SUPER PISS.
The computer industry is in a slump. People aren’t upgrading their computers every 18 months and companies like Dell and Intel are rightly worried. Yet there is still hope to be had in “emerging markets.” Here’s what the president of Intel recently told the NY Times:
“We believe that 50 percent of all the incremental units sold in the next five years will come from these markets,” he said. There are now about 500 million personal computers in the world, he said, and with the help of the emerging markets the industry, over a long period, could still expect to see double-digit growth outside the industrial world.”
Now let’s take a look at Intel’s Web site and see how well it addresses these emerging markets. Here is the global gateway:
It’s got about 36 “worldwide sites” from which to choose. And while this certainly sounds like a great many sites, if Intel’s goal is to target emerging markets, it still has a long way to go. There are only three countries from Africa/Middle East represented and only seven from all of Latin America. Where’s Ecuador, Nigeria, Slovakia?
Emerging markets do indeed promise significant growth opportunities, but too often I find that major companies don’t invest enough resources in trying to reach these markets. Small countries don’t promise major returns on investment so it’s always more difficult ot justify Web localization costs. Nevertheless, to overlook a market in this economy is to overlook short-term sales and long-term success. As for Intel, they have indeed invested significantly in Web globalization, yet in many ways they’ve only just begun.
Accepting payments in other currencies is a never-ending headache for companies, particularly small businesses. And although credit cards provide a nice alternative, many Europeans have yet to embrace them.
So PayPal will soon allow you to transfer money in Euros, Canadian dollars — even Yen. You can read more here.
Living in the U.S., it’s easy to take a one-sided view of globalization, where U.S. companies expand into foreign markets. But globalization cuts both ways, and I always love to see foreign companies take on U.S. multinationals on their home turf. For example, how will KFC handle Pollo Campero now that it has gone local?
Polo Campero is a Guatemalan fast food chain that just opened its first U.S. branch in Los Angeles. You can read the NY Times article here.
A good article about Japanese culture (and American ignorance) in the NY Times.