Procter & Gamble has pulled a detergent from shelves in Germany that was "unintentionally" marked with codes that represent neo-Nazi ideology.
The detergent bottles featured a jersey shirt with the number “18” on it, meant to represent the number of loads that could be done with the product, while a powder product had the number “88” on it.
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However, people took to social media to post pictures of the Ariel powder boxes, pointing out that German extremists use “88” and “18” as code for Nazi slogans. “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, CBS said, and “88” stands for “Heil Hitler,” while “18” stands for “Adolf Hitler.”
“We very much regret if there are any false associations and distance ourselves clearly from any far-right ideology," the detergent company's spokeswoman Gabi Hassig said in a statement quoted by CBS News
Haessig said the company stopped shipping the powder and bottles that caused the uproar.
“When you’re a global company, you’re going to have global problems,” wrote Consumerist writer Mary Beth Quirk
. “But perhaps there could’ve been a few more eyes/brains on a packaging campaign for Ariel laundry detergent from Procter & Gamble in Germany that featured a large white soccer jersey with a large '88' on them. Clearly P&G wasn’t quite attuned to the finer details of neo-Nazi culture, where those in the know use numbers as codes to get around the ban on Nazi slogans in public.”
Marketing to different cultures does bring challenges, as other companies have found out. Pepsi, for instance, marketed in China with the slogan, “Pepsi brings you back to life.” However, that English phrase translated to a scarier, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave,” reported Hubspot on “8 of the Biggest Marketing Faux Pas of All Time.”
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