Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes: Understanding The Cultural Implications of Your Marketing Choices

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When you’re working hard on building your business, it can consume all of your attention. All you think about is what you can do to attract customer attention, convert that attention into sales, and keep those customers so satisfied they keep coming back – all the while telling their family and friends how wonderful your business is, just for good measure. As a result, entrepreneurs, both new and well-established, can develop a kind of tunnel vision where it’s easy to lose sight of what branding and marketing decisions mean in the larger world.

This recently happened to Yum brands. The mega company (they own Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut – chances are you’re familiar with their work) is in the process of opening a new chain of restaurants called Banh Shop, featuring Vietnamese cuisine and the tagline “Saigon Street Food”.

Here’s what the restaurant logo looks like:

bahn

Do you see the problem? That giant red star in the middle of the logo was the emblem of the Communist North Vietnamese government. Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam. The two countries were locked in a bitter war that lasted more than 20 years, until South Vietnam fell and the country was reunited. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people fled the country in the years to follow; many of these people form the community that today is an enthusiastic target market for banh mi and other regional dishes.

Guess how they feel about seeing their enemy’s symbol prominently featured in a restaurant logo? Ten points if you said “Not especially hungry, thank you.” In Yum’s defense, they did address the issue and change the logo once a social media campaign (#BanhShopLogoChange) brought the matter to their attention – but the point was that this never needed to happen.


An integral part of the creative process for any business is to periodically step back and look at all of your messaging and say, “How does this look to our customers?” It doesn’t matter if your CEO loves an idea and your creative head thinks it’s pure genius: if your customers find it offensive or hurtful, it’s just not going to fly. Don’t get trapped in your tunnel vision. Getting stars in your eyes can be wonderful if you’re seeking romance – but if you’re trying to build a business, it can be catastrophic.

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Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes: Understanding The Cultural Implications of Your Marketing Choices
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Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes: Understanding The Cultural Implications of Your Marketing Choices
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Your brand could have the most beautiful logo and creative messaging, but if it's culturally insensitive to your target market then you're going to struggle to succeed.
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