Avoiding Faux Pas When Exporting

Taking your product international? Do the due diligence. Misunderstanding foreign customs or languages can destroy your brand

Vernon Menard has helped a lot of companies launching products abroad avoid spectacular bungles. He remembers the American pharmaceutical company selling its drugs around the world that wanted to give its weight-loss pill a name that sounded like "t'es gros," which means "you're fat" when pronounced by French speakers. Then there was the American desserts manufacturer that almost pulled the trigger to print thousands of ads containing a sexual reference. "I see companies making potential brand-damaging or brand-destroying mistakes on a daily basis," says Menard, co-owner and chief operating officer of 16-person Charlotte (N.C.)-based translation and consulting firm Choice Translating, which earned $1.5 million in sales in 2006, primarily through localizing companies' product names and taglines.

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