Test Product Names before Entering New Countries

By Christina

Jul 23, 2015

A product name is what consumers grow to trust and identify with.  The name is vital in building a brand's identity.  The world is becoming a smaller place and it is now easier than ever to move products into other Countries.  But what works in one country may not work in another.

I'll have a glass of excrement please!
Irish Mist is a golden whiskey produced in Dublin, Ireland.  It is a lovely name for the English market, yet when it was launched in Germany sales were not going well.  It was not long before the company found out that 'mist' in German means 'excrement'.

Rolls Royce did not make the same mistake, and changed the name of their car from 'Silver Mist' to 'Silver Shadow' before entering the German market.

Two more companies that had problems with their brand names when entering new countries were, General Motors, their Nova brand name translates to 'no go' in Spanish, and Gerber Baby Food Manufacturer brand name 'Gerber' means 'to throw up' in colloquial French.

The Name Game
The car industry is a good example of how businesses change their brand names to suit different markets.

In America Kia Motors 'Forte' is known as the 'K3' in Asia, and the 'Optima' is known as the 'K5'.  Asian markets prefer alphanumeric codes, because they sound more technologically sophisticated. 

A recent article suggested Kia Motors are considering using an alphanumeric system across all countries; this will save them a massive translation/localisation headache and save costs when launching a particular model elsewhere in the world.  BMW and Mercedes-Benz already successfully sell their cars around the globe without having to worry about the meaning of the product name.

Having one name may save a company time, effort and money when launching in new countries but the one-size-fits-all approach might not be the right way to go in the long term.  Cultural differences encompass religion, language, institutions, beliefs and behaviours that are shared by the members of a society.  Marketers should take the advice of natives of the countries in which they hope to do business, since other people's cultural differences are not always obvious.

Keep it or discard it?
A brand name is so closely associated with the actual product that changing the name should be unthinkable, so why do some companies decide to change it?

In 2009 Pepsi, decided to change its name in Argentina to Pecsi because that is the way the locals pronounce it.  The motive was clear: to get closer to consumers, by including those who were not pronouncing the name of the brand correctly but also by focusing on saving and standing by consumers sides in a time of crisis.  In Argentina, drinking a Pepsi costs one peso less than drinking a Coke.  The message: If you drink Pepsi, you save.  If you drink Pecsi, you save as well.  This change of name produced stronger sales for Pepsi.

If you're over the age of 25 you might remember 'Marathon' chocolate bars.  Mars decided to carry out a brand standardisation strategy and changed the name from 'Marathon' to 'Snickers' in 1990 because it was already named that in the U.S.A.  They had to follow this with an extensive advertising campaign to reassure U.K.  chocolate fans that their beloved 'Marathon' was the same as ever, just under a different name.  Mars also changed 'Opal Fruits' to match the U.S.A name 'Starburst'.

Consumers grow attached to brand names.  Most people harbour nostalgic feelings for brands that they grew up with.  When times are hard people always remember back to the good old days.

Brand Localisation
How do you go about localising your brand name in other markets?

The only way you can do it is to work closely with local marketing experts, who are native to your target country and understand the local market.

U.S.A computer company Wang Laboratories entered the U.K market with the slogan 'Wang Cares'.  The Brit's know what 'Wang Cares' sounds like, which the Americans didn't intend.

DRA Digital help businesses of all sizes attract new customers, with strategically designed and managed websites.

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