Product naming is an important part of branding and marketing, and one where international businesses can make costly mistakes if they fail to understand local language, slang, and all the connotations of a given word.
Here are a couple of potential branding disasters in the car industry, courtesy of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s Scottish network:
FITTA This car was hastily rebranded the “Jazz” for the Scandinavian market after Honda discovered that “fitta” is a colloquial term for a woman’s private parts in no less than 3 Nordic languages.
PINTO Car-maker Ford thought the better of this name in Brazil when it transpired that “Pinto” is Brazilian Portuguese slang for small male genitals. Not quite the image they were trying to promote! (The car was rebadged “Corcel”, which has a suitably manly meaning of “horse”)
PAJERO This word is a colloquialism denoting masturbation in Spanish, so Mitsubishi saw the wisdom of renaming its “Pajero” SUV as the “Montero” in Spanish-speaking countries.
The New York Times recently published an article on the exotic names surfacing in China’s car industry: the Freedom Ship, the Beauty Leopard and the King Kong, for example, are models produced by the Geely company. I’m not sure I’d want to drive around in a King Kong. Or in a Roewe:
Shanghai Auto came up with Roewe, a Roverish name with Chinese characteristics. However, one can only assume that quiet consternation engulfed company headquarters when it was discovered that the Chinese version for Roewe — Rongwei — sounds close to English-language Wrong Way.
Have you got any examples of branding or product-naming gone wrong? Let us know in the comments.
More about car-naming:
The photo, courtesy of David Perez, shows cars zig-zagging down San Francisco’s Lombard Street.
By Marian Dougan