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February 14, 2007

Motorcycle Naming: Lessons from Suckers in Spain and Pulsars in India

A recent posting by Oliver Milman on the Madcomments blog notes that “Spanish is the most likely language to be mangled by English-speaking brands.”

Hence the importance of Global Linguistic Analysis.

He lists a few true howlers, not least the famous “Got milk?” slogan that was translated as “Are you lactating?” and a U.S. airline’s unfortunate urging to customers to “fly in leather” that was translated as “fly naked.”

chupa_chups.jpgIt’s a shame because Spain has some excellent branding work, like the raging success of Chupa Chups lollies, suckers of choice to stars like Britney Spears and Elton John.

The brand name Chupa Chups may sound funny to Americans but is perfectly suited to Spain, much like, for instance, the Kawasaki Bajaj Pulsar 150cc motorcycle revolutionized the Indian motorcycle scene just a few years ago. The fans of this brand seem to be legion in India, with one blogger stating that it “rocks.”

The affordability of the bike along with the perfect name, I feel, just might have prompted top competitor Honda to rethink its entire Indian catalogue of motorcycle brand names, especially the CBZ and Hero lines, which seem to have been quickly decimated by the Pulsar.

scooter.jpgAs more and more Chinese motorcycle brands enter world competition, we are sure to see new brands moving away from copycat sound-alike naming (witness the Hongda Waze competing against the Honda Wave) into a field where great new bikes are coupled with great new brands.

Good motorcycle branding has a real longevity: witness the new Shelby Motorcycle and the new offering by Bombardier. Witness as well the reverence in which people worldwide regard the Vespa brand name, makers of the legendary scooter that is admired even by people who don’t ride them as emblematic of Italian and “mod” culture.

If Asian motorcycle companies want to go the distance on a global stage, I believe they will need to be sensitive to the vagaries of product naming worldwide. The benefits can be sweet indeed.

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Posted by William Lozito at February 14, 2007 11:13 AM
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