Why Learn International Marketing?

Ever wondered why studying International Marketing management was inevitable?

Let us have a look at certain fails in the International Marketing campaigns for some of the most powerful brands of the world.

When it comes to advertising, we’ve come a long way. All of these marketing slogans and brand names are perfectly fine……as long as we are marketing in our country. However, once we target customers outside our national boundaries, without knowing international marketing, this is what happens.


1) Coca-Cola

When Coca-Cola entered China, its name in China was read as “Ke-kou-ke- la,” meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or the equally hilarious, “female horse stuffed with wax,” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched to find a phonetic equivalent “ko-kou-ko- le,” translating into “happiness in the mouth.”












2) KFC

When American fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken opened their first restaurant in Beijing in 1987, they accidentally translated KFC’s famous slogan, “Finger-lickin’ good” to “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off!” in Chinese.












3) Coors

U.S. beer-making giant Coors apparently thought their slogan, “Turn it loose!” would translate to Spanish just fine. Unfortunately, “Turn it Loose” came out, “Suffer from Diarrhea” instead.









4) Clairol

In 2006, hair care company Clairol introduced a curling iron called the Mist Stick, which did very well in U.S. markets. When the company marketed the product in Germany, however, they failed to realize that “mist” means “manure” in German. Oddly enough, the “Manure Stick” didn’t sell so well in Germany.









5) Milk

The American Dairy Association was so successful with its “Got Milk?” campaign that they decided to extend the ads to Mexico. Unfortunately, the Spanish translation was “Are you lactating?”








6) A Japanese exporter trying to sell apparently in a western market.










7) Pepsi

Pepsi’s slogan “We bring you back to life” caused a bit of panic in China, where they read it as, “We bring your ancestors back from the grave.”









8) Puffs

Puffs brand tissues are quite popular in the U.S. A., however, their quest for global marketing ran into a few snags due to their name. In Germany, “Puff” is a colloquial term for a whorehouse. In England, a similar word “Pouf,” is an offensive term for homosexual.










9) Another International Marketing Failure.










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10) Ford Pinto

The Ford Motor Company introduced the subcompact Pinto in 1971. The company couldn’t understand why they weren’t selling more cars in Brazil, until they learned that “Pinto” is Brazilian slang for “male genitals.”








11) Braniff Airlines

In 1977 Braniff Airlines only meant to advertise the leather seats they’d installed in First Class. Their slogan, “Fly in leather” translated for Spanish-speaking markets as, “Vuela en cuero,” which means “Fly naked.”










12) Parker Pens

When Parker Pen’s famous slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” was translated into Spanish, it confused many Mexican consumers who read it as, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”










13) Another example of poor Chinese to English translation resulting in an international marketing fail.












14) The Coca Cola Salesman in Saudi Arabia (A classic example of marketing failure that never gets old)



A disappointed Coca-Cola salesman returned from his assignment to Saudi Arabia.  A friend asked him, “So why weren’t you successful with the Saudis?”

The salesman explained, “When I got posted, I was very confident that I could make a great sales pitch—but I had this little problem: I don’t speak Arabic.  So I decided to convey my message through 3 posters.  The first one shows a man lying in the hot desert sand totally exhausted and fainting.  The second one shows him drinking Coca-Cola.  The last one shows him now totally refreshed.  I had dozens of these printed up and posted them all over the place.”

“Terrific!  That should’ve worked!”  said the friend.  “So—what went wrong?”

“It should have worked,” said the salesman, “but no one told me they read from right to left!”

Companies cannot just concentrate on domestic markets if they are to remain competitive. And then if they have to go beyond their traditional market and be able to succed they must understand the various nuisances of international marketing like culture, language, demographics and various other components of the international marketing ecosystem.

By – Mohammad Haider Talat , Int’l Business Consultant, MBA from IIFT (2012-14 batch) can be reached out at talat.haider@gmail.com


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