When Sharwoods launched its latest product range earlier this month, it promised the "deliciously rich" sauces based on a traditional northern Indian method of cooking would "change the way consumers make curry". So confident was Sharwoods that its new Bundh sauces would be a hit that it backed the launch with a huge £6m television advertising campaign created by Labour's advertising agency, TBWA.
What it failed to foresee was that "bundh" in Punjabi has an altogether less savoury meaning - the nearest English translation being, to put it bluntly, "arse".
Update: Last August the Indian division of Cadbury-Schweppes ran an ad comparing it's Tempations chocolate to the war-torn region of Kashmir. The ad tagline: "I'm good. I'm tempting. I'm too good to share. What am I? Cadbury's Temptations or Kashmir?”. Click here for the rest of the piece from the Economist.
Sticky issue Aug 22nd 2002 From The Economist print edition
What possessed Cadbury-Schweppes to liken its chocolate to Kashmir?
HERE'S a first: a politically incorrect chocolate bar. The Indian division of Cadbury-Schweppes, a venerable confectionery company, has incensed large swathes of Hindu society by running a newspaper advertisement comparing its Temptations chocolate to the war-torn region of Kashmir. The ad carries the tagline: “I'm good. I'm tempting. I'm too good to share. What am I? Cadbury's Temptations or Kashmir?”. To make sure nobody misses the point, the ad's creators laid the “too good to share” catchline over a map of Kashmir.
The ad has caused a national outcry. Indian politicians, shocked at the very mention of sharing the territory, threatened nationwide protests. It did not help that the ad was timed to appear on August 15th, India's Independence Day. And Cadbury's British roots have made the ad even harder to swallow. After all, it was British colonial rulers who, at partition in 1947, drew the boundary line between India and Pakistan that the two nations have battled over ever since.
Though Cadbury India has apologised, the timing is hardly good. Cadbury-Schweppes is in the process of buying the part of Cadbury India that it does not already own. And Cadbury is particularly sensitive about its image at the moment, since it is considering whether to jump into bidding auctions for Hershey Foods and Adams, two of the choicest confectionery companies to come up for sale in years.
While the gaffe might seem like a gift for the anti-corporate brigade, it actually shows that, even in peripheral markets, multinationals can't hide their blunders for long. And this week, WPP, a marketing giant, gave a warning that the worldwide advertising industry could remain in the doldrums for at least another year. A spot of subtlety might help.