I was approached today by “a company providing an innovative concept of candles for illumination”. They are looking for distributors in Europe, and somehow found my website.
I haven’t researched this in great detail, but I’m pretty sure that candles were used for illumination several thousand years ago. It doesn’t strike me as being very innovative.
However, it did prompt me to think about some of the other great things people have said about their products. Especially when trying to take them internationally.
There are many well known examples of this going badly wrong. KFC famously got ‘finger licking good’ translated for their Chinese launch as ‘eat your own fingers’. I also like the car launches of the Ford Pinto in Brazil (Pinto is slang for ‘bollocks’ in Portuguese) and Opel Nova (doesn’t go in Spanish).
My current favourite is French drinks company, Perrier, trying to launch Pschitt lemonade in the UK. Apparently ‘pschitt’ is the noise the can makes when you open it, but in English it’s pronounced ‘shit’, which isn’t quite so appealing.
I think that companies expanding internationally are more aware than ever of the importance of getting these things right before they launch. But I’m always looking out for other great examples.