One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to invest huge sums into a new global venture without first gaffe-proofing their company name, product name or slogans in other languages. Checking that these names and taglines don’t contain negative connotations in key languages seems obvious … but it’s surprising how few firms actually do it.
Amazingly, the biggest violators of this simple rule of screening before proceeding are some of the world’s largest enterprises:
The former US company Wang Computer created the slogan, “Wang cares” for its worldwide offices. The UK branch refused to use it because saying the name fast sounds like “Wankers” which is UK slang for “idiot” or “fool.”
Calpis is a Japanese soft drink whose English name on its label sounds like “bovine urine,” which itself is not terribly tasty.
Ford introduced the “Pinto” in Brazil, not realizing that the name is Brazilian slang for male genitals.
A Swedish vacuum cleaner manufacturer used a slogan on British and Commonwealth TV stations which made perfect sense in Anglo-English. But when introduced on American TV, the marketing bombed because of a somewhat different meaning of the slogan, “Nothing sucks like Electrolux.”
In conclusion, some controversial names or slogans succeed. Most do not. And verifying names or slogans in other dialects of the same language is equally important. Why risk millions of marketing dollars when a very inexpensive screening upfront can determine whether to proceed? Our firm can evaluate up to seven names in ten languages for $800-$1000.
Name evaluating is but one essential aspect of expanding abroad. Join us every Friday on our website or on Apple, Spotify and other podcast sources for “Global Gurus: Stories of International Business.” Expert guests share their insights of diverse countries and topics in a fascinating and entertaining format.
To your success,
Director of Client Success
Phone: 415-592-0042 x125