For a moment, Barbie was a hooker

Fred Held, who has been a marketing executive with Mattel, McDonald’s and Burger King, responded to an article I featured on my website and had some great stories of his own. I was so fortunate to meet up with Fred and he agreed to let me share his insights:

Why negative advertising does not work:
“I worked with Ogilvy & Mather when I was at Mattel and their CEO explained the problem with negative advertising. First, most people do not pay attention to advertising and may end up thinking it is your competitor who is doing the negative advertising. Secondly, people want to hear the benefits of your product or service, not the shortcomings of your competitor. Lastly, having an advertising war sends the wrong message. You do not seem to be a friendly, consumer-centric company.”

Don’t skimp on something critical to your brand image!
“Many years ago Mattel was entering the European market with Barbie. Being the frugal marketing executive, I had a friend do French translations for the commercial and packaging. We were introducing bendable leg Barbie at the time. Unfortunately, the literal translation for “bendable leg Barbie” is French slang for a woman of the night. For a time, Barbie actually became a French hooker. We had to yank everything from the shelves and repackage!

“Always have an in-country translation. I was launching Mon Chi Chi (a cute stuffed monkey). In French that translated to “taking a piss” and in Spanish it was slang for breasts. It became Mon Ki Ki — perfectly acceptable in both countries.”

Consumer behavior is generational
“When launching (a toy called) Intellivision in Germany, we had a great deal of resistance. German consumers thought wood veneer was junky. They would rather have all plastic, real wood, or metal — but no veneer. Needless to say we had a very difficult time penetrating the German retailer. Luck is on the side of those with great product — kids could give a sh*t about wood veneer — they wanted to play the video games. Once the commercials started, the retailers re-ordered big time. The lesson here is design a world wide product if you are going global. The three easiest countries to do this are Germany, Japan and Switzerland. The US is one of the worst.”

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