LPM Staff

My car no va!

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

When I was in college, there was a story that kept popping up in my marketing classes as a cautionary tale about how things can get lost in translation.

As the story goes, GM once exported a car to Latin America called a Nova. It was a popular Chevy brand in the U.S., so why not take it down south? They must have thought they’d capture a large new market. I imagined them in the branding meetings: “We’ll just keep the name, Nova. The Mexicans and Brazilians will love it! They love America!”

OK, so maybe those weren’t their exact thoughts and sentiments, but GM surely didn’t have a bilingual person on their marketing staff to let them know that, perhaps, it wasn’t the best idea to give a car a name that means “no go” in Spanish. The car allegedly did so poorly they had to change its name.

The story went down in marketing history as an example of one of the biggest blunders ever. Or was it?

A little research online reveals that maybe the execs in Detroit had been aware all along of the potential pitfalls, but went with the name, Nova, anyway; and, the car did sell well in some Spanish-speaking countries. It was a gamble that apparently paid off, even if many wondered in retrospect what the heck they were thinking at the time.

Fast forward to now and you can find plenty of examples of products that make many Latinos scratch their heads and wonder.

In the aisles of Food City, you just might hear someone asking “como que tiene clamato already?” Or, in amazement, exclaiming “nunca tengo que comprar limones again!” They would, of course, be holding one of two Budweiser beers: one that comes with a hint of lime and the other with ingredients to make a michelada.

Go down another aisle and you’ll find Flaming Hot Cheetos and Spicy Nacho Cheese Doritos. Everyone knows we spice up our cheesy snacks, and that we might be lazy enough to buy something that is already prepared for us. Genius!

The other night, I was on a late night Taco Bell run and, just as I was about to order a Mexican Pizza (go figure), I found myself staring at a picture of the new Doritos Taco Loco. Yes, only a taco wrapped in a custom Doritos Nacho Cheese tortilla chip can be called a crazy taco.

I almost ordered it after staring at it in a daze, just to see what it tasted like.But, when I heard a voice repeatedly say, “sir, can I take your order?,” I came to my senses. Yes, I love to dip my Nacho Cheese-flavored tortilla chips in my beans and ground beef, but I want to do it with my own hands and in the privacy of my own home.

See this story in print here:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login