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Written by Montserrat González

Montserrat is a professional translator who likes to read and write fictional stories. There's nothing she enjoys more than spending time with her friends and family.

September 23, 2020

5 brands whose names got them some troubles in foreign countries


Have you ever visited a foreign country and noticed that a brand you know has a different name there? Did you know that companies follow an extensive process of linguistic tests to prevent any negative connotation to the brand in other countries?

When a product is launched internationally, companies must consider the languages spoken in the other countries. Companies start a naming process, so their brand can succeed in most countries.

Globalization makes naming a brand or a product even harder, since companies have to find a name that doesn’t offend anyone. Marketing research tells us that people often judge a product or a brand by its name.

Some companies decide to keep their original name in order to leverage their prestige. that’s why, sometimes they have to change the name due to idiomatic or cultural issues. This article will show you some of the most known brands that had to change their name because of these issues.


1. The controversial car

In the 80s, the Japanese brand Mitsubishi launched the Mitsubishi Pajero, name that had to be changed in Spain and Latin America (except for Brazil) since the word “pajero” means masturbator in there, a clearly negative connotation. Because of this, the all-terrain vehicle is know as “Mitsubishi Montero in these countries.” In case you didn’t know, “pajero” referred to the Leopardus pajeros or Pampas cat, a South American feline.


2. An aggressive deodorant?

Unilever, the British-Dutch multinational company, launched a deodorant brand known as Axe in France on 1983. The product’s great success made Unilever want to expand it throughout Europe. However, the combination of the name “Axe”, a chopping instrument, and the publicity with macho tendencies were not very helpful. So, they came up with the name “Lynx”, which would then be used in other English-speaking countries such as Australia or New Zealand in order to avoid problems with its connotations.


3. The worldwide soda

Coca-Cola chose to use the same name all around the world to increase their prestige and preserve it, until they started having problems with its pronunciation in some countries. The brand keeps its essence and logo, but with a different name. For instance, it is known as “Kekou Kela” in China, which literally means “happiness in the mouth.”


4. A not so appetizing name

Knorr is an Unilever company that produces soup, cream, and concentrated broth. Their instant soups are known as “Knorr Pota” in Japan, but any Spanish-speaking person would think twice before trying a soup with a name that means vomit. This is why the name was changed to just “Knorr”.


5. The poor bread

In the 80s, the Mexican multinational company Grupo Bimbo decided to bring its most famous product to Japan: the sliced bread in a cellophane bag. For Mexicans is the “It” brand of bread. Japanese people found it to be a good product with a hilarious name, since “Bimbo” means “poor” in Japanese.

As we’ve seen, language and culture are present in every aspect of our lives. Did you already know this? Or do you know any other story like these?


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