Decoding Problems

Decoding problems are generally created by improper encoding which caused such errors as Pepsi’s ‘Come alive’ slogan being decoded as ‘Come out of the grave’. Chevrolet’s brand name for the Nova model (which means new star) was decoded into Spanish as No Va! Meaning it doesn’t go. In another misstep a translation that was supposed to be decoded hydraulic ram was instead decoded as wet sheep. In a Nigerian ad, a platinum blonde sitting next to the driver of a Renault was intended to enhance the image of the automobile. However, the model was perceived as not respectable and so created a feeling of shame. An ad used for Eveready Energizer batteries with the Energizer bunny was seen by Hungarian consumers a touting a bunny toy, not a battery.

Decoding errors may also occur accidentally as was the case with Colgate Palmolive’s selection of the brand name Cue for toothpaste. The brand name was not intended to have any symbolism; nevertheless it was decoded by the French into a pornographic word. In some cases, the intended symbolism has no meaning to the decoder. In an ad transferred from the United States the irony of tough guy actor Tom Selleck standing atop a mountain with a steaming mug of Lipton tea was lost on Eastern Europeans.

Errors at the receiver end of the process generally result from combination of factors; an improper message resulting from incorrect knowledge of use patterns poor encoding producing a meaningless message, poor media selection that does not get the message to the receiver or inaccurate decoding by the receiver so that the message is garbled or incorrect. Even bad luck comes into play. French’s mustard was boycotted (along with French wines, fries etc) by Americans when the Paris government did not go along with the attack in Iraq in 2003. This was so, even though the brand name has nothing to do with the country – the company founder’s name was Robert T French.

Finally, the feedback step of the communications process is important as a check on the effectiveness of the others steps. Companies that do not measure their communications efforts are likely to allow errors of source, encoding, media selection, decoding or receiver to continue longer than necessary. In fact, a proper feedback system (ad testing) allows a company to correct errors before substantial damage occurs,

In addition to the problems inherent in the steps outlined, the effectiveness of the international communications process can be impaired by noise. Noise comprises all other external influences such as competitive advertising other sales personnel and confusion at the receiving end that can detract from the ultimate effectiveness of the communication. Noise is a disruptive force interfering with the process at any step and is frequently beyond the control of the sender or the receiver. As Exhibit Illustrates with the overlapping cultural contexts, noise can emanate from activity in either culture or be caused by the influence of the overlapping of the culture contexts.

The model’s significance is that one or all steps in the process, cultural factors or the marketer’s SRC an affect the ultimate success of the communication. For example, the message encoding media and the intended receiver can be designed perfectly but the inability of the receiver to decode may render the final message inoperative. In developing advertising messages, the international marketer can effectively use this model as a guide to help ensure that all potential constraints and problems are considered so that the final communication received and the action taken correspond.

The growing intensity of international competition coupled with the complexity of multinational marketing, demands that the international advertiser function at the highest creative level. The creative task is made more daunting by others kinds of barriers to effective communications – legal, linguistic cultural media and production and cost considerations.

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