When I studied international marketing during my undergraduate degree in the mid 1990s, I learnt something important.
It is important to ensure that your brand name and advertising do not cause offence in some markets.
The case study we learnt was that of Toyota cars, who had produced a sports car called the Toyota MR2.
The original model MR2 was launched in 1984, but the name soon caused an unexpected issue.
You see ‘MR2’ when said out loud, sounds like something rude in French (basically Shit!).
Clearly no business wants their product to have this image, so the car was renamed for the French speaking market.
Now what has this got to do with yesterdays news about McDonalds in Portugal.
For those of you that didn’t read or see the news, McDonald’s has apologised for accidentally causing offence with its ‘Sundae Bloody Sundae’ promotion.
For younger readers, and those without an Irish connection, the promotion sounded like ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.
‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ happened in northern Ireland in 1972, and resulted in 14 deaths, by gunshots, during ‘the troubles’.
Due to the context of the deaths, it is still understandably a very sensitive matter for many people.
The point I am trying to get across in this article in international marketing is that it is important to think internationally.
Thinking on an international marketing level was important for large business in the 1990s.
It is also now important for SME (Small & Medium Enterprises), due to the growth of the Internet.
Lessons to be learned
Personally I am surprised that a company like McDonald’s slipped up like this.
Normally they are experts in positive marketing of their products, and in creating a fun brand image.
Going forward I am sure they will double down on ensuring that promotions do not cause offence in other countries.
Conclusions and advice
Someone seems not to have checked that the advertising campaign would not cause offence outside of the local Portuguese target market.
Businesses should always check that they will not offend other countries that they currently operate in, or intend to in the future.
It is even more important now than it was in the 1990s, due to the Internet.