business culture

Business Culture




Sometimes products don’t sell well in a new market. What Happened? Suggest what went wrong in these cases.

Advertising, Branding, Packaging

1. A new Australian airline company called itself Emu, after the native, Australian bird. How was business for them?

2. A TV commercial for a cleaning product in Canada showed a little girl cleaning up the mess her brother had made. What happened?

3. Several European and American firms couldn’t sell their products in Dubai when they ran their advertising campaign in Arabic.

4. An American golf ball manufacturer launched its products in Japan packed in boxes of four — it’s standard packaging. It didn’t sell.

5. A soap powder ad had a picture of dirty clothes on the left, a box of soap in the middle and clean clothes on the right. The soap didn’t sell well in the Middle East, except Turkey.

6. In Saudi Arabia, newspaper adverts for a Western airline showed an attractive hostess serving champagne to happy passengers. What was the reaction of local customers?



Meetings and Negotiations

7. Many salespersons in Denmark are women. However when a company sent a delegation to Kuwait, all the members were men.

8. German engineers and their counterparts in Myanmar arranged to meet the following morning at 10:00 sharp. What happened?

9. A Chinese wholesaler wanted to import blue cheese. On Monday, they met a potential American vendor who got straight down to business. On Thursday, a supplier from Italy had a two-and-a-half-hour lunch with them before negotiating the next day.

10. A Russian home decorating company had luncheons with furniture companies. When they offered vodka, the Irish vendors accepted and drank everything; the Americans said it was against their company policy to drink during work hours.

Products and Services

11. An American company had poor sales when it introduced instant coffee to the French market.

12. A ladies’ electric shaver sold well throughout North America, but not in Norway (this was in the 1980s).


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A. Do any of these customs exist in your city or country? Do any of them sound familiar?

B. I have met and dealt with foreign business people or visitors. Yes or no? Were there any misunderstandings?

C. What are some (foreign) advertisements or products that “bombed” (failed) or wouldn’t sell in your country?

E. How would you advise foreign business people coming to your country?

F. Have you worked with a cultural consultant on how to do business abroad?

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