January 19, 2006
Product Naming: The Importance of a Global Linguistic Analysis
On my recent trip to Switzerland to spend time with friends and family, I was reminded of the importance of conducting a thorough global linguistic analysis of names for products or services that would be marketed internationally.
Everyone’s familiar with the Chevy Nova, which loosely translates to “No-go” in Spanish. Some of you may know that the Mitsubishi Pajero is slang for masturbation in Mexico. Buick had the same problem when they introduced the LaCrosse in Canada. LaCrosse is also slang for masturbation in French-Canadian. Do you see a trend here? I think it’s probably a coincidence.
Even less known is that in French, Travelocity translates into "City of Transsexuals", travelo being a derogatory term for transvestite. Without making any judgements on anyone’s sexual orientation, I think it was wise on the part of Travelocity to use a different name in France. If you type www.travelocity.fr, it takes you to www.odysia.fr. Odysia, although most likely a coined name, reminds me of odyssey, a more appropriate term for the travel industry.
When it comes to marketing a product or service internationally, I can’t help but think of what my mother taught me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
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