When companies have an ethnocentric mindset, their marketing attempts can fail in other countries. Take a look at some iconic cross-cultural blunders.



Nestle’s business segment, Gerber, is a well-known baby food brand in the United States. With their growth, Gerber decided to enter the African market. Gerber chose to sell baby food in Africa using the same packaging that they used in the U.S. which turned out to be a careless mistake. Since the company did not do research on the different elements of African culture, they did not recognize the low literacy rate in Africa. In order to accommodate for the education level in the region, brand labels in Africa usually use pictures to show what is inside of the product. In this case, Gerber’s logo of a baby caused confusion on the contents of the product.


A common marketing blunder comes from trying to directly translate slogans. When KFC tried to translate its slogan “It’s finger lickin’ good” in Chinese, it said “Eat your fingers off”. Coors translated their slogan “Turn it loose” in Spanish, it said “Suffer from diarrhea”. Schweppes faced a translation failure in Italy during a campaign for their Tonic Water, which was advertised as “Schweppes Toilet Water”. As you can see, language is a very important cultural element. International marketers should cross check their translations by translating their slogan into the foreign language and then back into their own language again, to make sure the they are sending the correct message to its consumers.


Color is another important element to consider in marketing. In different cultures, colors represent different meanings. Pepsi Cola discovered this when they changed their vending machine colors from deep “regal” blue to light “ice” blue in Southeast Asia. Their most dominant market negatively interpreted the change since light blue is associated with death and mourning in their culture.

Unfortunately, these are just a few popular cross-cultural blunders. So what can we learn from them? Building a brand in a foreign country can be a very difficult task. Every cultural element needs to be taken into consideration to avoid marketing errors. Companies should look at the name of their products, packaging, color usage, and the way their product will be presented in the country. In depth research on local culture is absolutely necessary for successful advertising.






Fromowitz, M. (2013, October 7). Cultural blunders: Brands gone wrong. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.campaignasia.com/article/cultural-blunders-brands-gone-wrong/426043

Images from:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/woman-face-iconic-gerber-baby-logo-turns-89-article-1.2443336, http://www.simracingdesign.com/threads/need-some-logos.53861/, http://thenakedlabel.com/blog/2015/01/12/tonic-water-bad-for-you/, http://www.designhill.com/design-blog/evolution-pepsi-logo-design-hundred-years/