Apple’s iPhone 4S, with the Siri voice activation system, continues to increase its market share. In the first quarter of 2012, Apple had revenue of nearly $13 billion in the U.S., more than $10 billion in China, and $8.8 billion in Europe. A lot of that revenue was due to their latest phone with the entertaining voice of Siri fronting for an artificial intelligence system that tries to answers the users’ queries.
The problem with Siri is that it only speaks a few select languages – English, German, Japanese, and French. But what happens if you speak only Spanish – spoken by approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. – or Mandarin – spoken by one-third of the world’s population? Well then, for now you are out of luck and will have to interact with your smart phone the old-fashioned way – using text!
One of the most critical decisions a marketer can make in consumer products is to correctly name the new product or company. Consider the iconic company names in consumer goods – Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, Nabisco, Pillsbury, Land of Lakes, and Kraft. In America, these are household names; but what happens to names when companies are expanding globally? In the case of Kraft Foods, the company is spinning off its global snacks business into a new entity and was searching for a new name that would represent the business.
The name needed to be applicable internationally, conveying the company’s worldwide deliciousness factor. The result of the long naming process became the name “Mondelez International.” The reason: Monde means “world” in French, and delez (with a long E final syllable) is a play on the phrase “delish.”
Unfortunately for Kraft, and despite a long vetting process on the name, the name has a meaning in Russian that is far from the worldwide deliciousness label hoped for by Kraft. Whe it is pronounced “mohn-day-LEEZ,” the meaning of the phrase in Slavic languages translates to a Russian term for a rather crude oral sex act!
Kraft is currently standing by the new name, stating it properly tested the new name with focus groups in 28 languages. But is it worth the snickers and misrepresentation of the company value, particularly as the company seeks to grow its presence with female Russian shoppers?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
Have students go to Wikipedia and check profanity pages for various countries. (Warning – there will be a lot of snickers in the class!) Examples: Spain, Italy, France, etc.
What are some of the potential pitfalls for companies as they enter new countries with established product names?
Have students quickly research mistakes made by companies when naming products for a new market and language. (Famous examples include the Chevy Nova and Ford Pinto.)
To illustrate the difficulty of naming products globally:
Have students list 5 or 6 current popular products that are in the U.S.
Next, have them work on translations of that product name into another language. (There are online language translators that can be used on laptops.) What are the risks and concerns?
Challenge the students to come up with a “globally appropriate” name for a new household product.