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September 1, 2005

“Konglish” Gives Korean Businesses a Bad Name

Misused English words make effective corporate slogans in Korea, but they don’t impress foreigners. When the corporations in question are pursuing global markets, this is a serious problem.

Many Koreans are concerned by what the Corea Image Communication Institute characterizes as “marketing ineptitude” and “unsound and inconsistent” promotion efforts. Choe Yong-shik, author and marketing lecturer at Sejong University, claims “Konglish” is What’s Wrong with Korea’s Global Marketing.

HTH Logistics Logo For instance, consider HTH Logistics’ slogan “36.5°C Delivery Service.” The company is intending to convey a warm customer approach (36.5°C is the human body temperature in Celsius), but in the world's largest market, the U. S., we use Fahrenheit, and many are likely to miss the reference.

Even astute brand marketer Samsung stubs its toe with Konglish. The slogan for its life insurance business is “Bravo Your Life!” Bravo is not a verb, therefore the slogan should read “Bravo to You.”Samsung Life Insurance Logo

Western branding experts working in Korea fight an uphill battle against disorganized management, aversion to market research, and corruption. So far no one has made much headway against a corporate culture that isn’t willing to let marketing and communication professionals do what they do best.

Do U.S. companies embarrass themselves when advertising in foreign languages?

Posted by William Lozito at September 1, 2005 10:26 AM
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» Korea Company Naming is Going Glocal from Strategic Name Development Product Naming Blog
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» Is it Smart to Use Foreign Words When Naming or Branding? from Strategic Name Development Product Naming Blog
Thanks to Lee Hopkins of Better Communication Results for reminding us of both the humor and the potential for disaster when using foreign words to name products or brands. Some time back on this blog I discussed the phenomenon of "Konglish,"... [Read More]

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1 Comment

The Urban Legends Reference Pages at list a number of stories of American product names or ad slogans translating badly, but most of them have been determined to be false. Among them are:

Southern California Sav-On drug store outlets were renamed Osco after an acquisition, then reverted to the original Sav-On name when their parent company discovered "asco" means "disgust" or "loathing" in Spanish -

The Chevrolet Nova sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because its name translates as "doesn't go" in Spanish -

The title of the arcade game 'Donkey Kong' was the result of a mistranslation -

The John Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath" was published in a Japanese translation bearing the title "The Angry Raisins" -

Coca-Cola's initial transliteration of their name into Chinese produced a rendering whose meaning was "bite the wax tadpole" -

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