Globalization affects our day to day lives in every way. From the distance between the products on our shelves versus their origins, the flow of arts and culture from every corner of the earth, all the way to who we compete against as businesses and individuals. We cannot deny that the world is getting smaller. Depending on whom you ask, this evolution of global hiring, workforce, and supply chain can be framed as a blessing or a curse; a challenge to be overcome or potentially the demise of a local business.
This post will focus on none of that heavy subject matter. In fact, this post will hopefully make you chuckle as you learn how globalization can lead to some of the funniest fails possible. Here is a countdown of our favorite top three. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did!
Sometimes there is just the perfect storm of funny when global communications allow you to reach your entire global workforce at once. A clerical mix-up at the UK-based insurance company Aviva lead to the entire global workforce of 1300 employees receiving a termination of employment email. This email was meant for just one individual! The email had detailed instructions for proper exit protocol, the return of property, and confidential information responsibilities. In addition, this blunder happened in 2012, when the world economy was not exactly at its best, so it was entirely believable to have a whole company go under.
Apparently, it took nearly 30 minutes for the HR department to realize the error had happened. By the time the follow-up email explaining the error was sent, many would have already been clearing out their desks. And presumably, that follow-up email was sent to only 1299 people.
Imagine being the one person that was supposed to receive the email in that situation? At least out of all your friends, you would have the best “how I got fired” story…
Translation of language and customs is many times a fuzzy science at best. When you are expanding a brand, it’s probably a good idea to have a strong local team or at least a local expert that can verify that the intention of your marketing message is matching the impact. This amazing article by Inc.com shared twenty instances where a local marketing team was obviously not consulted. The best part is that sometimes the results seemed more fitting than the original message…
• When Coca-Cola was first entering the Chinese market, the brand name was sometimes translated to “bite the wax tadpole.”
• Swedish vacuum cleaner maker Electrolux tried to win over the American market with the following winner of a slogan, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
• Ford must have been pretty embarrassed when they tried to market the Pinto in Brazil. “Pinto” in Brazilian Portuguese roughly translates to tiny male private parts. Whoops.
• “Eat your fingers off,” was what the marketing team at KFC came up with for China when they tried to translate “Finger lickin’ good.” Nailed it.
• Last but not least, when Gerber first started entering the Ethiopian market they followed their standard brand practice of putting a cute baby on their baby food labels. They later found out that because many people in Ethiopia do not read, it is standard practice to put a picture of THE CONTENTS of the container to help consumers find what they want to eat. Oh no!
It probably seemed like a stroke of genius at first when “Bob,” a normal software programmer in his 40’s, realized that he could outsource his well-paying job at Verizon to a company in China for only one-fifth of his salary. So, he went forward with it, he even FedExed his token RSA key to China so they could securely log in as him during their evenings so it would look like Bob was working his normal 9-5. The team in China was so good that Bob even received praise as “the best developer in the building.”
Eventually, during a routine security review, Verizon was incredibly alarmed to find out that computers from China were accessing their core machines. Assuming a global hacking attack was happening on critical US infrastructure, all the alarms were sounded. Imagine being part of the security investigation team that unpackaged this gem of a story? You wouldn’t know whether to be impressed or just fall to the floor laughing.
So what would Bob do all day at his desk with all this free time earned by his entrepreneurial prowess? Watch Cat videos on Reddit and surf social media of course!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about funny global hiring and workforce fails. We hope you had a good laugh! If you liked this humorous post, check out these 18 quirky international payroll and taxation facts.
**This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice.