When global brands forget about local versioning!


We often write about how important it is to maintain control of the brand when rolling out global campaigns across multiple territories.

On the other hand, local marketing teams need to be able to make changes to suit the needs of their customers – central can’t possibly anticipate every single variation when it may have to contend with dozens, or even hundreds, of different regions with thousands of local adaptations.

The fact is local teams know their local market best, and when it comes to connecting with consumers, local knowledge is hugely important.  Balancing brand consistency with local versioning is a delicate but necessary act.

It is important to set the main brand strategy at a strategic corporate level, and ensure that the central marketing team creates the branded marketing campaigns.  But it’s just as important that the local, on-the-ground, marketing teams are involved in the adaptation of marketing materials, such as adverts and POSM, to avoid expensive and potentially embarrassing mishaps.

We didn’t need to dig too deeply to discover a few well-known brands that quite obviously failed to give local a look-in:

  • It is hard to believe that this translated slogan has been used in China to promote a famous cola. The soda-selling giant ran a campaign with the slogan “Brings you back to life”.  Translated into Mandarin, however, the slogan means “brings your ancestors back from the grave” – not everyone’s cup of tea (or sip of soda!)
  • A well-known brewing company ran the slogan “Turn it loose” for their refreshing beverages. However, directly translated into Spanish, the locals found the meaning to be somewhat off the mark; “Suffer from diarrhoea” – not the kind of brand promise many of us would buy!
  • Staying with Spain, this time for an American T-shirt designer which was running a campaign to promote the visit of the Pope by printing limited edition t-shirts. The t-shirts were supposed to read “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), but instead, read “I saw the potato” (la papa).
  • KFC’s famous “finger lickin’” chicken slogan is known the world over. However, the message becomes somewhat lost in translation when the Cantonese speaking locals were invited to enjoy the “eat your fingers off” chicken.  Yummy!
  • A major car manufacturer fell foul when it launched its new model in Brazil; the ‘Pinto’. Much to the locals’ amusement, though, ‘pinto’ is actually Brazilian Portuguese slang for ‘small penis’.
  • Promoting the luxury of flying business class to its Mexican customers, a US airline translated the slogan ‘fly in leather’ into Spanish. ‘Vuelo en Cuero’ was the result – and not the one they were looking for.  Had they checked with their local team they’d have known that ‘en cuero’ is slang for ‘in the nude’.
  • In Mexico again, this time for a pen brand. A famous manufacturer mistranslated its “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” slogan into “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
  • A world-famous sports brand had to recall thousands of its latest products, which featured a new art design – a burning flame on the back of sports shoes. The only problem – the flame unintentionally resembled the Arabic word for ‘Allah’. Needless-to-say, showing a visual interpretation of the burning of the name of the deity of one-quarter of the world’s population was never going to be a good thing!

As amusing as these examples may be, you can be assured they were far less funny for the marketing teams and their brand managers.  To make sure your organisation doesn’t make the same mistakes, your central teams need to allow local teams the remit to make alterations while still exerting effective control over materials.  Allowing local teams to submit material alterations for review, through a platform to central, keeps the brand consistent while avoiding the kind of faux pas that even the biggest brands have run into.

If you’re keen to avoid your brand joining this list of campaign mishaps, find out more about Brandgility to manage the templated distribution of campaign assets to your regional teams. Complete the form below to request a demo.


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