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A luxury car that smells only of leather!


Investing in international brand name research prevents disastrous, costly international marketing blunders, and preserves global corporate credibility.

rollsSometimes a brand flop can be purely down to the name… and when it comes to naming a new car, you would think that all car manufacturers would aspire to the early wisdom of Rolls-Royce’s international brand name research in 1965. Their latest model was initially planned to be named Silver Mist as a natural progression from its predecessor Silver Cloud. Just days away from its release, the company changed the name to Silver Shadow after discovering that Mist in German means “manure”. Clearly, international brand checks paid off for the luxury car manufacturer. Reputation intact. Indeed, Rolls-Royce has continued this proactive brand strategy to prevent such marketing blunders. Just before Rolls-Royce launched the Silver Seraph in 1998, the company’s brand manager, Julian Hadrill, told Forbes magazine, “I have had sleepless nights about someone suddenly finding some ghastly translation (of the car name).” No bad translations were found for the Seraph. The Silver Seraph follows a long Rolls-Royce tradition of naming its cars Silver Something.

In the footsteps of Rolls-Royce:

toyotaToyota wisely released its MR2 in France under the name of le coupé MR, having been advised of the close similarity in pronunciation of MR2 to the French words merde (noun) and merdeux (adjective), not a far cry from manure!


nike2Nike “got their toes burned” by inadvertently offending Muslims in 1997, when the “flaming air” logo for its Nike Air sneakers looked too similar to the Arabic form of God’s name, Allah. Nike pulled more than 38,000 pairs of Nike Air shoes from the market. It’s not just “political correctness”, it’s “global political correctness” that’s required. Linguistic and cultural consultancy is also needed for multilingual product descriptions and packaging:


crayonsCrayola changed colour names due to the civil rights movement and other social pressures. In 1962, Binney & Smith replaced flesh with peach in recognition of the wide variety of skin tones, and indian red to chestnut. (Note that the original colour was not named after Native Americans, but rather named for a special pigment that came from India.) But school children often assumed the incorrect origin of the name.



hyundaiUndeterred, some companies choose to go forward with a brand name, despite professional advice to suggest that a Hyundai would have brand name issues with its Pony in the UK market. In Cockney rhyming slang, “Pony” is short for “pony and trap”, meaning “crap” (sl.). Indeed, Hyundai marketed the Pony in the UK in 1982.

Etymax works with companies on international brand naming research and consultancy, an essential part of their global branding strategy. For further information or a quotation, please contact us.

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