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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

Lost in translation

An unfortunate coincidence highlights the potential pitfalls of international marketing
Taylor Swift's initials and year of birth are causing unexpected ructions on her concert tour of China. Andrew Estey / Invision / AP
Taylor Swift's initials and year of birth are causing unexpected ructions on her concert tour of China. Andrew Estey / Invision / AP

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift may have inadvertently created a problem for her brand in Beijing. T-shirts and other merchandise destined for sale in China are emblazoned with “T.S. 1989” – Swift’s initials and the title of her latest album.

Some social-media users say that anybody wearing the shirt may face arrest, because the logo could be taken as a reference to the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 when a large number of student protesters died in a clash with authorities. Others say it’s a storm in a tea cup because Swift is not deliberately making a political statement – unlike Bjork, who used a 2008 concert in Shanghai to raise the issue of Tibet. In any case, Swift’s teenage fans were not born at the time of the protests, which are rarely mentioned in China’s media or history texts.

And as far as marketing failures go, it’s not up there with the advertising campaign in which KFC’s “Finger-lickin’ good” slogan was rendered in Chinese as “Eat your fingers off”.

Updated: July 25, 2015 04:00 AM

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