Bye bye

For almost two months I’ve been discovering with you the world of cross-cultural communication. It has been an adventure for me and I hope you enjoyed my blog! Cheers to the great strategies of successful globalization, but more to the ads of cross-cultural miscommunications that gave us such an amusing laughter. In the future we will definitely experience more stories like these. By that time, just think back on this blog for a little moment, okay? Up to the next one!

Can you give me a Heineken?

How can I finish my blog, without even mentioning the most globalized Dutch brand in the world: Heineken.

It is crazy how Heineken gained its own place in the beer market, by being the biggest beer brewery in Europe and even the 3rd in the world. I mean, at long last the beer really isn’t that fabulous. Talk about a laughing “e” and a red star, and I know even an African nomadic tribe from the jungle knows what you are talking about. Also, communicating the brand as “warmth in a bottle”, instead of just beer, was a smart move I think. And how many Hollywood movies have brought the famous green bottle to light?

Heineken emphasizes its global domination in a beautiful campaign. Heineken rules the world, even the highest skyscrapers in Rio de Janeiro, Paris and New York are made of Heineken beer bottles! You can click on the images for a fullscreen view.

60 seconds movie!

My friends Dion and Samantha with me in a shopping mood.

The future of globalisation

It is early november 2061, I step on my bicycle. While riding in the city center of Eindhoven, I am looking at all the stores… What do I see?

A few days ago I read an article about how successful American companies are in globalizing, in comparison with Europe and Asia or any other continent. I must say, this freaks me out a little bit. Is America taking over the world? In 50 years, will all the Dutch companies like HEMA, V&D and Bijenkorf be gone, blown away by American multinationals? What if globalization will become an elimination of cultural identities and the Americanization will only get worse? Oh no….

Thank God there is one big conclusion to make after reading my blog: The Americans are very good in cross-cultural failures like language mistranslations and lack of cultural understanding. They still suck in localizing their brand the right way. At least, I thought so, until the same article was saying America also was the best country in localization! One chance of hope: The author was, of course, American. And also I think the world population would never allow local brands to be destroyed! Long live HEMA, V&D and Bijenkorf.

The king of all kings of globalization

If I ask the world one brand that deserves the Nobel Price of Globalization, there is only one answer we can think of: MCDONALD’S. How crappy the food might be, I want to know their magical tricks. Imagine how many different food cultures we have on the planet… Japanese eat sushi, Mexicans eat taco’s, in Italy there is pizza, in Spain paella and we Dutch people have farmer food. All I know is that most cultures value spending time to have a fresh prepared diner of good quality. How weird is it that the typical American McDonald’s food is so different from the world wide food cultures?? At the end it will always be junk food from the factory, that makes you fat and unhealthy. Isn’t this a bit controversial?

I think the reason of McDonald’s success is because of the fact that the American invented the “trow away” society. It is an easy and efficient way to avoid the dishes, but most importantly to make it possible eating a dinner on the go. McDonald’s must have done great research, when finding out people who live in cities are always busy, don’t have time and desire a quick bite from time to time. I think having a strong positioning in big cities was the key to global success for McDonald’s.

Props for the creators of this video!!!!

A car doesn’t have to drive when it’s pretty

Oh no! Big problems for Chevrolet in South America! It is nice Nova means “new” in Latin, but in Spanish language it means “doesn’t go”. You would say it really doesn’t matter for the sales, because of course this vehicle drives, and of course we know it is just a stupid mistake. But apparently it DID influence the South American people to not buy the car. Well, at least not me, look at this beauty below!

Six Word Story IV

English: I am perfect, she said full of doubt.


Hi all!

For all the Dutch speaking people on my blog: I wrote a column for you about how Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries in my opinion gives unfair criticism on the new cinema movie “De Heineken Ontvoering” (English: The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken). It seems Mister de Vries is using his famous reputation to give the movie bad publicity on purpose. Apparently, nowadays there is such thing as using negative PR to bring down your competitors. Read my column below (in Dutch…sorry) and ENJOY!

Dear self…

If I have the chance to interview myself today, which questions should I ask? Will I open my heart for you or keep it simple and safe?

Click on this link to read an intriguing conversation between moi et moi!

The power of Coors

Oh dear, that is kinda shitty for Coors! After introducing the original slogan “Turn it Loose” in Spain, the Spanish people weren’t so excited anymore to buy the beer. They understood the Spanish slogan “Suéltalo con Coors” as slang for “I suffer from diarrhea”.

MTV’s struggling way to global success

MTV had to take a long and winding road, before finding the right strategy for globalization. First MTV thought Europeans love to see the typical American music culture on television. Holding on to this idea, MTV chose to broadcast only American programs, with only English-speaking VJ’s. Not a good idea after all, when it appeared that most European tastes of music were mainly local. People couldn’t care less about American music. Also, what’s hot in Italy, can be totally shitty in France. MTV clearly failed to understand these cultural differences.

In 1995, MTV introduced a new global strategy, where localization played an important role. Every country in the world organized its own programming with their own music and language. MTV India focusses on Bollywood music, while MTV Netherlands is targeting on Dutch festivals and how-to-easily-make-money-as-a-poor-scholar/student. Result: The increase of viewers worldwide was phenomenal and MTV Networks has become a symbol of globalization!

MTV did a great job, but I think nowadays MTV is still broadcasting too many programs in American style. Also the localization brings lots of reporting programs, and I feel music is slowly disappearing. Such a waste for such an amazing channel! MTV, where did your M go?

Fresh from the press: Nokia’s hot new smart phone

A new dirty mistranslation just got in! Last Wednesday mobile company Nokia introduced a new smart phone: “The Lumia”. Quite a beautiful brand name, but since Lumia in Spanish language means “prostitute”, Nokia makes a big big blunder. And this from one of the most famous, intelligent companies in the world. A smart phone might be smart, but the South American marketers really aren’t!

If only they had read my blog sooner about cross-cultural mistranslations, then this mistake would never have happened last Wednesday…

Twitter versus the Egyptian regime

On of the biggest cross-cultural happening of the year with no doubt is the Twitter revolution in Egypt. Activists used Twitter (as in: a popular social medium of the West) to motivate Egyptian citizens to protest against the Egyptian regime of Mulbarak. Result: Evening after evening hundreds of people gathered together at the main square in Caïro. The Egyptian regime saw Twitter as an attack and a danger. I therefore don’t believe it was a coincidence the social network of Facebook and Twitter spontaneously got blocked by the state. It became impossible for demonstrators to fight for democratizing. Fortunately the power of social media on smart phones and PCs seems to be indestructible, since protest movements kept finding their way back to the social network, whether with or without blockage of the government. Eventually the Egyptian society won since Mulbarak announced his resignation.

I think it is wonderful how a ‘simple’ communication medium like Twitter can cause such a national rebellion. Originally, Twitter was intended for simple status updates and showing your social identity online. Imagine how a little group of activists grows bigger and bigger during time and even turned out to be a very important tool for democratization. it’s insane. Bye bye Mulbarak, maybe you can start your own Twitter account, and take some kick-ass revenge.

Got milk? No, give milk :)

Translating the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign into Mexican Spanish, resulted in a bummer, with the slogan: “Are you lacturing?”.

God knows if ‘Got Milk?’ truly gets its milk from a cow, or seriously from women’s breasts.

Always look on the bright side of life!

After the Sichuan earthquake in China, many multinationals changed the colour of their Chinese home page in black, as a gesture of respect to all the victims who suffered. These companies must have been embarrassed, when they found out white is the colour of mourning in China, not black. Apparently black stands for happiness; an emotion that is not exactly a nice gesture to those 60,000 Chinese people who got killed by the earthquake!

Starbucks in China Part II

Entering the Chinese market didn’t happen as rose-tinted as hoped. First, Starbucks didn’t know the Chinese tradition of tea drinking. Then, Starbucks hurts the Chinese population, after localizing a coffeehouse inside the Forbidden City, in the heart of Beijing. The Forbidden City is an important symbol of China’s cultural heritage. According to many Chinese people, Starbucks is “a symbol of the low middle class culture of the West, that breaks the fine line between globalization and contamination”. Bringing a foreign franchise into a cultural icon feels like an insult to them.

I totally feel the frustrations of the Chinese community. Every cultural heritage site in the world should be preserved and treated with respect. Also in this case, I really don’t understand why Starbucks didn’t see this coming. Why did this happen? Truly because the right audience precisely walks around in that building? Or nobody knew the Forbidden City stands for the Chinese culture? Is it really all about selling coffee drinks? In any case, it’s quite a sin to damage your brand image by a lack of common sense.

It is not surprising Starbucks immediately closed the coffeehouse in the Forbidden City. Lesson learned, don’t let it ever happen again!

Starbucks in China Part I

In America, people love coffee. In China, people traditionally prefer tea. A simple fact Starbucks forgot before entering the Chinese market. Oops… But better late than never though, because Starbucks directly anticipated on this ‘news’. Nine new tea drinks had been launched in China, including three original-leaf Chinese-style tea products and handmade special tea. Starbucks also changed its position in China from highest quality coffee to high quality tea. A little too late and a huge letdown, but I think this solution is the right choice. Unfortunately, after this incident Starbucks had to face a new cross-cultural communication problem…


Wannabe Hitler or Charlie Chaplin?

To remain in German athmosperes, look at the advertisement below of Hut Weber, German producer of chic hats. I believe a shock-vertising has always been a good eye-catcher to get people’s attention. But involving Adolf Hitler in a German campaign, isn’t that a bit out of line? Okay, I understand this man has done terrible horrible sick things in the past, but hey, how funny is the comparison between Charlie Chaplin and Hitler? VERY! Can we please relativize the past for a moment and just enjoy the message, humour and creativity of this ad?

So no, I don’t believe this ad goes too far, but what do you think?

troelich fantastich

Jawohl, und das ist warum die Sprache ist so wichtig fur cross-kulturellen Globalisierung! Funny commercial!

KitKat + sense of Japanese culture = success

Before entering the Japanese market, KitKat took some time to gain local insight of the culture their target group lives in. And this resulted in a successful campaign. KitKat created green chocolate bars introduced as ‘lucky charms’ and received the name “kitto katsu”, a Japanese expression which means “surely win”. Good creative thinking!

Apparently it is traditional in Japan to send each other good luck wishes, before taking higher-education exams. As result of this, KitKat started a collaboration with a Japan’s postal service and the concept “KitKat Mail” was born. The Japanese students were crazy about the cards and KitKat gained intercultural success in Japan. Voilà!

La France n’est pas l’Amérique

Disneyland’s international expansion to Paris, France, turned out to be a big failure. Disneyland may be popular and successful in the United States, it doesn’t mean the same American concept would become a hit in Europe. Big cultural differences created serious problems for EuroDisney in France, since Disney did not seem to understand the French culture at all. In a culture of wine and croissants, people do not have the need to experience the ‘taste of America’. And nobody had the feeling Disneyland was adapting to their local tastes and preferences. Alcohol was not allowed, everything was in English, and the overreacted fake smile of the Disney figures didn’t attract the people.

A painful lesson learned for Walt Disney: Think global, act local, and not the way around!

Gerber’s baby food

We know olive oil is made of olives, but hell no we find babies in baby lotion. Apparently Gerber, producer of baby food, misunderstood the last. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they put a baby’s face on the packaging label. I hear what you’re thinking: “What’s the problem then?”. Well, since many African people cannot read at all, it is common in Africa to put a picture on the label of what’s inside. A little cross-cultural miscommunication which Gerber didn’t see coming!

AT&T knows how to go cross-cultural

AT&T, an American phone provider, created a worldwide campaign to show the brand has the best mobile coverage in the world. In this campaign we see painted hands, posing to interpret a particular culture. I think it is an easy but creative way to approach a lot of different people in the world. It encourages a certain commitment to a specific culture, with a simple concept that is exactly the same in every country.

The campaign has 22 ads. Below you see  some of my favorites in a slideshow. Visit this website to see the whole campaign.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Albert Heijn product description failure

Nowadays the Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn has a new ‘sort of candy’ in its assortment. Whoops, the Dutch language is more similar to English than we sometimes think. But nevertheless the Dutch consumer appreciates this new product. The shelf above seems to be very empty…

Google Street View Russia proofs the truth is far from perfect

The ad below would never work in the conservative America, but nevertheless I think it is fabulous. The ad is controversial, full of humour with a tone of sarcasm and mockery. If you have plans to stay in Hotel La Famille in Moscow: think twice. In the ad we see Google Street View showing Hotel La Famille as it really is: located between two sex shops with a noisy renovation in progress.

Top left of the advertisement, we see an image of a small catchy ad, that is painting such a tempting picture of the same hotel:
The best location for a family holiday. Quiet, peaceful
four-star hotel with plenty of attractions nearby to
suit all members of the family. Whether you want to
go shopping or take in a show, it’s right on your doorstep.
Our friendly staff are here to fulfill your every wish.

So, next time you book a hotel reservation, first check Google Street View!

Swedish Electrolux literally falls for the charmes of Google Translate

Don’t buy an Electrolux, it sucks!!! At least, according to the brand itself. When the Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer launched a translation of their original Swedish slogan in America, things got out of hand. Which resulted in a disaster: “Nothing Sucks like an Electrolux.” Fine, but first we should let the company speak for itself. Oh, wait! It already does. And don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Rather this is a mistake of Google Translate or the art directors’ English word skills, this ad blunder is inexcusable. But what happened here? I think this is an underestimation of how language barriers effect a target group’s consumer behavior. But though this ad was published in the late 1960s, I believe nowadays an ad like this could really score. More and more you see brands outshine competitors, by mocking themselves with a sarcastic tone-of-voice. After decennia of advertisement, one sees the commercial purpose of campaigns. We need something new to pay their attention, like sarcasm and humour.

So, whether you are still planning to purchase an Electrolux vacuum or not, the background image is worth a 1,000 words, don’t you agree? At the end it truly did cause the leaning tower of Pisa. So ultimately it doesn’t suck at all. Huh?

personal ad

Even the highest towers,

start from the ground.

six word story

English: Rather his money, than your love.

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You have safely landed on the international blog of Claire Wouters, last year student Communications at the Fontys University of Eindhoven. It is my ambition to start an exciting career abroad, in an inspiring culture. I like the thought of how each culture creates its own unique place in the world of communication. Different cultures can have so many different interpretations of the communication profession. This results in tons of unknown ways and styles to approach a human being. I believe that a mix of these completely different visions can result in creative and strong communication concepts. But also cross-cultural communication failures in advertisements. Therefore, I started a blog. On this page I talk about various remarkable aspects of communications within a specific culture. Also I express my point of view and describe you how I – as a Dutch future communication professional (hopefully) – give meaning to this subject. I invite you onboard, to join me on my digital journey around the world. So fasten your seatbelts and step with me into the adventure of a student on discovery!

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