7 huge naming & branding failures


When it comes to naming & branding, it seems that even if you are a huge company with a lot of employees and financial resources, the big naming & branding mistakes “can’t be avoided”.

The main reasons why this kind of mistakes occur are the following:

  • The marketing and branding departments simply don’t care about linguistic screenings. If the name sounds ok and “clean” for them, it’s enough
  • Cultural differences? Don’t care about them
  • Translations differences into more exotic languages like Chinese
  • Let’s be “so cool” syndrome. Some people are confusing creativity with becoming vulgar or offensive.

In this article you will see 7 huge naming & branding failures. Let’s learn something from here:

  1. When you want to market a new product in China, the legislation imposes you to translate your brand name into a Chinese one. Besides that, you are forced to find a translation with a true meaning for the Chinese people. That’s why, the Chinese version of a brand name has nothing to do with your brand name, with the pronunciation or even with its main meaning. You must be very careful with that and, for sure, you must work with great branding Chinese people, not only simple translators. When Coca-Cola has first entered the Chinese market, the Coca-Cola brand name was translated into: “Bite the Wax Tadpole”. Not so inspired, we think.
  2. In the past, Electrolux has decided to find a very “creative” slogan for its new vacuum marketing campaign in US. How did it sound? “Nothing sucks like and Electrolux”.
  3. Other Chinese naming mistakes? Mercedes-Benz has entered the Chinese market with the name “Bensi” which means “Rush to die”. Not so inspired for a car manufacturer. Pepsi’s slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” was introduced in China as “Pepsi brings you back from the grave”. KFC had this kind of tagline translation problem too. Their famous tagline: “Finger licking good” was translated in China as “Eat your fingers off”.
  4. Not only Chinese language seems to have this kind of translation problems. The American Dairy Association translated its famous tagline “Got Milk?” in Spanish speaking countries into “Are you lactating?”.
  5. When the battery company Powergen Italia has decided to expand its operations at a global level, they have decided to us this totally uninspired web domain:
  6. When P&G has launched Pampers diapers in Japan, they have used on the packaging the typical image of a nice stork delivering a baby. The product did not perform very well there. Why? The customers were confused by the image of the stork delivering a baby because in Japan nobody knows this story. The storks have nothing to do with babies here. In Japan, the story is completely different. Here, giant floating peaches bring the babies to their parents.  Now imagine that you will see in a European country a diaper pack with this kind of image. Babies coming out from a peach…Really confusing.
  7. HSBC was forced to make an entire rebranding process after a campaign and tagline message was released worldwide. The campaign’s message was “Assume Nothing”. In many countries, the message was translated as “Do Nothing”. In the end, the bank has lost $10 million with this campaign and for finding a new tagline: “The world’s private bank”, which has a clear and clean translation in all the languages.

As you may see, these are huge cultural and linguistic mistakes done by powerful companies. Even if a naming & branding development process involves a lot of people in this kind of companies, it seems that nobody pays enough attention for doing things right from the beginning. A linguistic mistake may cost you millions.

If you are preparing to launch a new product on market and you want to be sure that the naming process goes right from the starting point, you can write us more about your plans here.

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