It’s fun to watch people make a fool of themselves, live on camera. Fails are as popular as Vines on YouTube. I have empathy for the clumsy, and we all need a good belly laugh.
When it’s a business blunder, though, the entire company cringes. After watching “Mad Men”, we no longer have to wonder about what high-paid ad executives did: drinking on the job makes for mad ads. Flash forward to ultra-sensitive, hyper-connected 2016, and the public will easily get mad at a bad ad.
Marketing is all about images, but thank goodness some of us still read. Even in other languages. Too bad Pepsi didn’t take that into account before launching the campaign slogan “Come Alive With Pepsi!” in China, which was mistranslated in Chinese into “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”.
Next time hire a professional translator.
My beef today is about graphics for another beverage: coffee, of course.
Misleading marketing piece #1
This month the U.S. coffee giant Starbucks opened their first store in Medellín, Colombia, coming full circle to the source of much of their coffee.
Spanish speakers tend to add an E before an English word beginning with a S, and to omit a final consonant in the word, especially a K (e.g. Facebook becomes “face-boo”, which is disconcerting because it sounds as if they think an acquaintance’s countenance is frightening).
Interestingly, then, Starbucks is pronounced “estarbos”, sounding similar to “estorbo”, which means “nuisance” or “hindrance”.
As an English teacher, I encourage students to divide compound words into ones they already know. Starbucks breaks down into “star”= estrella and “bucks”= billetes. Starbucks: donde estrellan (also means “to crash”, like a car accident) tus billetes.
This parody reflects the backlash against the hipster clientele willing to pay their prices.
These are all just unfortunate pronunciations and double-meanings of a name the company can’t change, tied as it is to Melvillean literature. On to the images.
This lovely mural decorates the new Starbucks in Medellín. The floral flourishes, the verdant foliage, the exotic animals all scream TROPICAL.
Starbucks reported, “the artist Catalina Estrada, known for her bold interpretations of nature and Latin American folklore, created a playful custom mural inspired by Medellin’s nickname.” (emphasis added)
In Colombia, coffee is usually grown at altitude, not like the low-lying fields of Brazil. Certainly not on the seashore, for a coy mermaid to be kissing the coffee cherries wearing a coffee-flower lei (that would be Hawaii). Just a nautical reference to Moby Dick, subtly sneaking in the logo? Or maybe this is part of magical realism?
The muralist gets points for including heliconias, adorning many farms, and a jaguar, still prowling the Antioquia countryside. But the rainforest macaws would better be replaced by a hummingbird, the symbol of Colombia’s magical realism celebrated in last year’s popular nature film “Colombia Magia Salvaje”.
Green rolling mountains, tall fronds of guadua, colorful balconies, and loaded donkeys make up the UNESCO World Heritage coffee cultural landscape that borders the new Starbucks location.
Any of these would have been welcome, realistic symbols to include in an otherwise enticing, albeit a bit too exotic, mural.
Misleading marketing piece #2
If anyone should know about Colombian coffee, it would be the National Federation of Coffee Growers, or FNC. They unwittingly put their stamp of approval on this package without seeing the rest of the decorations.
100% Colombian coffee is characterized by about 30% Peruvian (llama, Nazca lines) and 30% Central American symbols (chocolate, Mayan pyramid). The rest is generic tropical clip art (toucan, palm tree, lizard).
Only one is supposedly Colombian, that of the palenqueras, the AfroColombian women bearing tropical fruits on their heads, iconic in Cartagena. Again, coffee doesn’t grow on the beach. Unless they’re trying to represent coffee grown in the nearby mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta? Why not put an indigenous Arhuaco then, with their characteristic woven mochilas?
Marketers and muralists are entitled to their artistic freedom, but let’s not stray too far into the salty oceans and desert plains when it comes to Colombian coffee.
Looking for aesthetic, authentic inspiration? I leave you with this shot of locals drinking coffee in the plaza in our previous home, Jardín, Antioquia, only a few hours from Medellín.