What is in a Brand Name Part 2: Inappropriate Car Names

Previously, we talked about words which have a different meaning in another language. Sometimes, when brands decide to launch their product in a foreign market, they neglect localization branding consulting. This can lead to marketing catastrophes as this blog post will show you.

Heard of General Motors’ Chevy Nova? It’s one of the urban legends often quoted as a marketing gaffe. Nova means star in English. The story goes that when this particular car model was launched in Latin America, it was a huge failure as nova means ‘no go’ in Spanish. This was an especially embarrassing branding mistake for a vehicle. While this story has been debunked as a myth, this is a situation that is very real.

The following list shows cars with actual names that have very inappropriate connotations in another language:
• Mazda LaPuta – in Spanish: ‘whore’
• Nissan Moco – in Spanish: ‘booger’
• Opel Ascona – in Spanish and Portuguese: ‘female genitalia’.
• Daihatsu Charade – in English: ‘pretence’
• Dodge Swinger – in English: slang for ‘wife-swapper”
• Fiat Uno – in Finnish: “stupid”
• Ford Fiera – in Spanish: “ugly old woman”

These oversights have made these automobile manufacturers the butt of many jokes, but more damagingly, it also highlights how these large corporation neglect taking cultural context into consideration when christening their car models. This can give the impression that these big brands don’t care enough, alienating consumers.

Of course, marketing mistakes don’t just apply to cars. In our next post, the third one in this series, we’ll look at people’s names, as well as other famous branding nightmares. Check back with us next week!

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