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Lost in Translation: McDonald's Hmong and Hindu Cultural Marketing Missteps

Posted by Dale Buss on September 5, 2012 06:06 PM

One way McDonald's plans to keep on growing around the globe is to open itself increasingly to local tastes rather than simply trying to impose the Big Mac on every national market, which is how the chain started out. Interestingly, however, just as McDonald's is making such a move in India with new vegetarian restaurants, it's being tripped up by a matter of cultural sensitivity just a few hundred miles from McDonald's Chicago headquarters in the good ol' U.S. of A.

It seems that billboards in St. Paul touted McDonald's breakfast offerings in Hmong, the indigenous language of Hmong-Americans who comprise a major enclave of 64,000 people in the Twin Cities. The billboards put up by local franchisees — the first time McDonald's has ever advertised to Asia's Hmong community in the U.S. — were supposed to say, "Coffee Gets You Up, Breakfast Gets You Going."

But thanks to a garbled translation from English to Hmong, the text reads as gobbledygook to the Hmong-American population. McDonald's apologized for the error and set about to correct it immediately. Overseas, meanwhile, McDonald's newest culturally relevant move outside the U.S. — bringing vegetarian-only fare to some restaurants in India next year — is one of the biggest efforts by McDonald's in accommodating its brand to consumers outside its home U.S. market, and also inadvertently stepping on some toes.Continue reading...

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