The 3 Biggest Disasters in Naming History

What Is a Name and How Can It Impact Your Branding?

Choosing a name for your business is one of the most important features for your start-up. But what exactly should you consider in your name? It must be both logical and easy to remember whilst also portraying your brand and corporate identity. Should you choose the wrong name, you could be victim to jokes, bad publicity and even complete bankruptcy.

Whilst many bad names occur due to poor planning, others can be accidental or a result of cultural differences, especially when it comes to languages. Make sure you brief a good naming agency. By doing this, you can certainly prevent a naming disaster. Here are 3 of the biggest disasters in naming history.

  1. Ayds

Ayds was originally manufactured by The Campana Company and was first marketed in the 1930’s. It was advertised as an appetite suppressant that could supplement your diet and was extremely popular until the early 1980’s. So, what went wrong with the brand? In terms of the product itself, nothing. Unfortunately, its customers began to make a shift to alternative products after a new disease began to make headlines across the globe. As a result, the company were no longer able to continue marketing the supplement, due to the association the name now had among the public.

It could be argued that this particular name was extremely unlucky, especially when you consider the success the company had prior to the 1980’s. It would have been almost impossible for anyone to anticipate such a backlash. Nonetheless, a sales decrease of over 50% caused the product to eventually be withdrawn from the market. Although not deliberate, Ayds was certainly a naming disaster.

  1. Bensi

Bensi was the brand name used by Mercedes-Benz when they chose to enter the Chinese market. This name was chosen as it was believed that Mercedes-Benz was too difficult for the Chinese consumer to say each time they mentioned the brand. Unfortunately, this name was mistranslated within the Chinese market, and was translated as “rush to die.” This created a very bad first impression among the Chinese consumers and forced the company to change their marketing campaign entirely.

Since this initial naming disaster, Mercedes-Benz has been very successful in the Chinese market, with double-digit growth in sales from China in 2019. From June to August 2019, they sold a total of 181,233 vehicles. Luckily Mercedes-Benz were already successful within other continents around the globe, otherwise they may not have been able to financially recover from this error.

  1. Cadabra

Whilst you may have never heard of the company Cadabra, you’ll be surprised to know that it is actually the world’s largest online business. Confused? So was Jeff Bezos when he originally named the now global company Amazon, Abracadabra. This was eventually shortened to Cadabra, which had the URL for a whole year. The name in itself is not particularly attractive for customers. It can be read as the word cadaver or even bra, for women’s brassiere, a pretty odd way to promote an online book store.

Luckily for many of us today, Bezos realized the issue with the name and eventually changed the name to Amazon, the company that is known all around the globe. Thankfully, this issue was resolved before the company became a disaster. After all, the word Amazon looks significantly better than both Abracadabra and Cadabra on our packaging.

Consequences of A Bad Naming Strategy

A bad naming strategy can have a significant impact on your business, as well as result in a completely failed marketing strategy. One example of this could be seen with the launch of the Mitsubishi Pajero in the early 1980’s. In English, the word Pajero does not mean anything, in fact it actually sounds like a stylish car. However, unfortunately the same does not mean the same in Spanish, which resulted in a number of consequences when it was launched into the Spanish market.

In Spanish, the word is a direct translation of a derogatorily expressive term which resulted in an extremely low number of sales. As a result, The Mitsubishi Pajero was relaunched as the MONTERO, a more accurate representation of the vehicle.

This example is a clear indication that linguistic expertise (that our multicultural team at Little Buddha can provide) is required when launching a product or company overseas. Language barriers can cause all kinds of issues and must always be checked to avoid what can become very expensive mistakes.

Company Names. They Really Do Matter

Whether you’re creating a name to represent your brand, or you would like to make a play on words, remember that a suggestive or inappropriate name can have an impact on the long-term success of your business. Whilst in some cases a funny name can have a good impact, in other cases it can be the difference between success and failure. In general, it is advised that you remain on the more conservative side when naming your business.

If you need help naming a new product or brand, Contact us!

About the author: Bertrand Massanes | Managing Partner at Little Buddha
• Ex Managing Director at MPG art (Media Planning - HAVAS Media)

• Ex Marketing manager at Danone & Reckitt Benckiser Spain

• Ex Export Manager at Danone Paris & London
May 25th, 2020 | Naming articles
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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