I remember a class I took a long time ago it seems (but not really) my sophomore year in college – this intro class to international business. We of course hit on the entertaining topic of internationally marketing a product – that there is a critical need to do your homework with regard to possible misunderstandings in naming or advertising your product in languages with which you might not be completely familiar.
The professor brought up a few examples: In the Spanish speaking world, when Chevrolet brought its new Nova car to a Spanish-speaking country – Mexico, if I remember correctly, it hit on a nice little embarrassment – I'm taking her word for this, as I know about as much Spanish as I overheard passively while living in Tucson - "no va" means something like "doesn't go." Bic advertised a click pen, saying it won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you, unfortunately using the Spanish verb closest to "embarrass," which has less to do in Spanish with feeling sheepish as it does with being impregnated. Zipping over to Germany, some kind of multinational cosmetic company introduced a hair curler or straightener or something (what do you folks do with something like this?) called a "Mist-stick" with the unfortunate downside of such a product being linguistically associated with, well, poop.
Making the same leap as I did in my final leg of the journey to where I am writing this, Germany to Georgia, I bring you Barf. This wonderful Iranian product is the local "Tide with colorsafe bleach," it cleans my clothing in the washer with the utmost of effectiveness, leaving all my absolutely gross reworn clothing (remember, I also only take a bath, if lucky, weekly) as spic-n-span as detergently possible every Sunday.
But Barf, as we all bemusedly know, should not be introduced to already soiled clothing. Seems like a frying pan to the fire kind of deal.
This would have been an endearing marketing misfortune, but it seems the folks in Tehran are on to us. On a bottle of their Windex-equivalent line, I recently noticed an addition. Written in the tiniest of letters, right under the product name, an almost legalistically fine-print bailout: "Barf means snow."
Needless to say, I appreciate this attention to customer concerns. On a side note, I've gotta say, it's in my head-trip column along with a long list of other things that my detergent is exported from the "Axis of Evil."