What’s in a name?

I was lucky enough to be involved a few weeks ago in a very interesting brand name analysis project. "What's that?" I hear you ask...

Well, any product name intended for international use will always have linguistic and cultural implications. Certain words, sounds or even letters may have an undesired meaning or connotation in another language or culture. Getting it wrong can quite simply spell disaster! Carrying out a brand name analysis using native speakers based in target audience countries can help companies to avoid such blunders. 

Anyway, the project got me thinking of the pitfalls faced by brand designers when marketing to international clients. I’m sure all of you out there have seen some howlers in your time, but here are a few of my favourite product name gaffes to lighten your Friday afternoon...

General Motors faced problems when it introduced its Chevrolet Nova into Latin America. “No va” in Spanish literally means “it doesn’t go”. Not the best way to advertise a car!

Speaking of unfortunately named cars, there’s the Toyota MR2 which caused quite a stir when it was introduced into France, but for all the wrong reasons. When pronounced in French, these letters produce the wonderful phrase ‘est merdeux’ meaning something along the lines of ‘it’s crappy’! Suffice to say, the car was soon marketed under a new name.

When Clairol introduced their ‘Mist Stick’ curling iron into Germany they were confused as to why the product didn’t fly off the shelves. Until, that is, they realised that ‘mist’ in fact means ‘manure’ in German. Can’t say I’d want to put a manure stick anywhere near my hair, can you?!

The cream liqueur ‘Irish Mist’ didn’t go down too well in Germany either. Anyone fancy a glass of Irish manure? No, didn’t think so...!

One food company introduced a new giant burrito which they named BURRADA. Big mistake! No...I mean literally, that’s what it means in Spanish, BIG MISTAKE! Didn’t think that one through, did they?!

One Finnish firm tried to sell a car windscreen de-icer in the United States by the name of ‘Super Piss’. Not a hugely popular product for obvious reasons...

Finally, one IKEA product sounds perfectly normal in Sweden. But you’d have thought that somebody in the marketing team would have realised that naming their new workbench ‘fartfull’ wasn’t such a smart move!

Just goes to show the importance of brand name analysis!

Yours truly,

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