A question of naming: from flashes of genius to universal gaffes

If you were an automaker, would you launch a new car calling it “Doesn’t run”? And if you were a cosmetics company, could you sell a liquid foundation with the name “manure”? Or, more generally, would you give one of your products the name of the lethal gas used in the gas chambers under the Nazis? These scenarios may seem like sheer madness, but since reality is often, unfortunately, stranger than fiction, we are talking about things that actually happened and which created – easy to imagine – no small problems for those directly concerned. It’s all a question of naming; that is, choosing the most suitable name for a new product or service that you want to introduce on the market. Sometimes we are particularly fond of a sound, a word that evokes a particular feeling, or a term that has been buzzing around in our head for some time, but if we want to take our creations out into the world, it’s better to know what those names mean outside our own backyard.


If you’re not convinced, try asking Chevrolet. The story is told that in 1962 the automaker was forced to very quickly change the name of the new car introduced also on the Spanish market. Here, in fact, the chosen name (“Nova”) literally means “It doesn’t run” and it certainly did not sound like an invitation to buy the new car. Or try to find out how many bottles of “Country Mist” foundation the multinational Estée Lauder sold in Germany, where the term “mist” means “manure”. An unfortunate slip of naming also happened to Bosch Siemens and to Umbro, two different companies that decided to launch two new products under the name “Zyklon”, the sadly famous name of the gas used in the concentration camps in the Second World War.


If you have invented a product or service that will revolutionise the lives of many people, be careful that it doesn’t “revolutionise” yours. Thanks to a team of more than 1300 mother-tongue translators and interpreters present on every continent and specialised in the widest variety of areas of activity, STUDIO TRE offers consultancy and support services for the launch of new companies, products, and services throughout the world, enabling our clients to communicate the strength of their ideas in the best way. As regards the naming issue, as well, prevention is always better than cure.


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