Author: Chris Moerdyk

Because, once that little business in the garage starts growing and our entrepreneurs become established, they are going to have to make that quantum leap so necessary to sustain growth and development.

It’s called going global and is potentially so full of eggs that will not only cover a million faces but which would keep the entire Hilton Hotel chain in buffet breakfasts for the whole of the next millennium.

Now, as you’re shoving the old beetle out of the garage, the only global thinking you have to consider for the time being is the name of your company, service or product. Quite simply, because one person’s brand name is another’s punchline.

Take the General Motors people who came up with a new model called the Chevy Nova. Great name. Catchy, easy to remember, literally oozing innovation and things new on the leading edge of automotive design. In English speaking markets, that is and yes, perhaps one or two of the Latin countries.

But, in some places in South America, Nova means “No go.”

It didn’t take GM long to work out why they weren’t selling too many cars in that neck of the woods.

There are hosts of examples of highly respected multi-national corporations that didn’t do their homework when creating global brands and ended up in the proverbial. Like the French soft drink brand Pshitt ! Doesn’t sell big in Britain where the perception is that’s what’s going to happen to you if you drink too much too fast.

Advertising slogans are even worse. Take the American washing detergent people who decided to get into the lucrative middle-eastern market. They had billboards all over the place with that very message that had created massive sales all over the world; “Acme Washing powder makes even the dirtiest clothing whiter.” They even translated it into Arabic but forgot that the language was not read from left to right as it was in the West but the other way round and fairly loosely translated, what they were exhorting Middle Eastern housewives to do was use their product to get even the cleanest, whitest wash absolutely filthy.

It is for this very reason that air traffic controllers all over the world not only stick to English as the global airline language but just to be sure they repeat everything.

Hardly surprising because you can be quite sure that “You are cleared to land on runway three” spoken with a thick Mongolian accent will probably come across in Serbo-Croat as ” Sorry we’re full up, try that little, farm road on your left….”

Even deep sea divers have an international language which is something everyone has to learn off by heart before even thinking about putting a toe into the water. For example the typical thumbs up sign we all use to signal “ok” means something entirely different under water. So, when you’re 20 metres under the sea and your instructor gives you the thumbs up he is not asking you if you are as happy as Larry and having fun, he is telling you to head for the surface. If he has big eyes and is giving you the thumbs up very rapidly, chances are there is a great white shark about to take a whacking great chunk out of your anatomy.

Now the big international telephone companies have played it relatively safe by just sticking the word Telecom behind the name of their country. Can’t go wrong there. But, then you get some of the global players like AT&T that create a bit of confusion in foreign climes every now and then.

“Hey, Fernando, call me on AT&T…!” and then you wonder why you don’t hear from the guy and eventually discover that instead of phoning you he headed for the nearest café for a cup of tea…and then another one.

But, it’s not only language that can create misunderstanding. It’s the whole corporate image thing as well. Logos that might be symbolic of technological leadership in one country can look like an instrument for the removal of hemorrhoids in another.

And what about the uniform? That’s the most confusing thing I find about travelling abroad; telling the difference between the fellow who is the pilot of my plane and the guy who’s digging through my suitcase at customs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone up to a pilot or navigator and confessed to having double my legal ration of scotch.

At least they have a sense of humour. You should have seen what happened when I asked a customs official at Ankara how high he has ever been.

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