Car Brands That Failed to Hit The Mark

Introducing a new product or starting a campaign requires drawing the attention of your audience the right way. The creativity of your message is important but, without asserting a positive meaning, it can be useless. This poses a clear first step – know your audience.

Knowing your audience in order to effectively transmit your message goes beyond simply knowing their language and understanding their needs. For example, some of the best practices include using a native speaker’s guidance to construct a message and/or thoroughly understanding a region’s culture to ensure you are communicating the intended thoughts and emotions. It may seem like a daunting process, but these extra steps will minimize the chances of your brand from failing. Even when the intentions are good, things can backfire greatly without the proper due diligence needed to understand your audience.

Let’s take a look at these brands that avoided product campaign fails.

The Hyundai Kona Case

Deciding a new name for their new car, Hyundai had in mind the Hawaiian island of Kona with the idea of representing adventure, freshness and having an exotic vibe. However, they quickly realized they needed to do a major name change when entering the Portuguese speaking market. In Portuguese the word “cona” is used to call the female private parts in a very vulgar way – nobody in Brazil or Portugal would like to ride a car with that name! They ended up naming the car after another Hawaiian island, Kauai. It was an island hop away from disaster.

The Mitsubishi Pajero case

Mitsubishi could not have conceived not being able to debut in Spain nor in South America when they developed their full-size 4WD Pajero. Unfortunately for the brand, the word “pajero” has a vulgar meaning in most Spanish speaking countries. We won’t mention its meaning, but be warned if you Google it yourself!

Wording has not been the only major element to cause delays or downfalls in branding or promoting products. Celebrities chosen for ad campaigns can have an equally negative impact if not chosen strategically. For example, choosing Hollywood actor Liu Yifei might sound like a great idea considering the new Mulan movie coming to theaters soon. However, after publicly voicing her support for police in Hong Kong, we might see a disparaging impact for a brand that chooses her as a spokesperson in our current global market.

Outside of hypothetical scenarios, here’s another example of the same mistake. Richard Gere seemed to be the perfect face for a car advertisement. Fiat agreed to promote their car Lancia Delta. They made a series of advertisements that had Richard Gere driving from Hollywood to Tibet. Shortly before the release of these ads, Richard Gere had received negative attention in China when he publicly acknowledged support for the Dalai Lama. The Chinese audience was furious and proceeded to bombard Fiat’s SNS with negative messages and they were clear: they would not only boycott the new Lancia Delta but ALL future Fiat cars. Imagine losing such a massive market!

At Hideoki & Co. we have a team of native speakers who can look beyond the surface and inspect related matters that could have a negative impact on your brand.

Let’s get started.