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Tales of the Unexpected – Brand Naming Bloopers

By August 26, 2023No Comments

When it comes to branding, choosing the perfect name for your company or product is crucial. A well-chosen name can elevate your brand and make it memorable; however, a poorly thought-out name can lead to disastrous consequences. Throughout history, there have been numerous cases of brand naming bloopers that left consumers scratching their heads in confusion or, even worse, caused significant damage to the brand’s reputation. Join us on a journey through some of these tales of unexpected brand naming bloopers that serve as cautionary tales for companies and marketers alike.

The Chevy Nova Misstep

Our first tale takes us back to the 1960s when American automaker Chevrolet made an unexpected blunder while introducing their new car model, the Chevy Nova. Despite its sleek design and promising features, the Nova faced a tremendous challenge in the Latin American market. Why? Well, the problem lay in the name itself. In Spanish, “no va” translates to “does not go.” Consequently, the Latin American consumers interpreted the Chevy Nova as a car that doesn’t run or is unreliable. Understandably, this naming mishap posed a significant obstacle to the car’s success in the Spanish-speaking countries.

Pepsi’s Generation Gap

Continuing our journey, let’s fast forward to the 1990s when PepsiCo, the multinational food and beverage company, launched a new soda called “Pepsi AM.” The idea behind this product was to market it as a morning beverage, targeting the breakfast crowd. However, this branding decision turned out to be far from successful. In their attempt to appeal to the younger demographic, Pepsi accidentally ran headfirst into a generation gap. The older generation, who associated “AM” with the morning hours, failed to understand the intended concept. Consequently, Pepsi AM faced a lackluster response and failed to resonate with its intended audience.

The AOL Mail Disastrous Rebranding

Rebranding is a common practice for companies looking to refresh their image and stay relevant in today’s ever-evolving market. However, even the most well-established brands can make unexpected blunders during the rebranding process. AOL, a pioneer in the early days of the internet, is a prime example of this.

In 2004, AOL decided to rebrand their email service from “AOL Instant Messenger” to “AIM Mail.” Seemingly harmless, right? Well, not so much. As it turned out, the acronym “AIM” had already been widely associated with AOL’s rival, AOL Instant Messenger. This confusing move not only alienated existing users but also caused significant brand confusion. Customers were left puzzled, wondering if “AIM Mail” was the same as AOL’s email service or a completely new offering. Ultimately, this disastrous rebranding attempt resulted in a loss of user trust and further propelled AOL’s decline in the email industry.

Lost in Translation: The KFC Blunder

Our final tale of unexpected brand naming blunders takes us to China, where KFC, the renowned fast-food chain, encountered a rather peculiar translation issue. In an attempt to maintain brand consistency, KFC’s iconic slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” underwent translation unfavorable to the brand’s image.

In Chinese, the slogan was translated to “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off,” which obviously did not convey the intended message. This unfortunate translation mistake portrayed KFC as a menacing and potentially cannibalistic brand, challenging the company’s reputation in the Chinese market. While the incident sparked amusement among consumers, it also served as a reminder for companies to pay careful attention when translating slogans or taglines into different languages.

These tales of unexpected brand naming bloopers remind us of the importance of meticulous research, cultural sensitivity, and understanding the target audience when choosing a name for a brand or product. While some blunders may result in humorous anecdotes, others can have long-lasting negative effects on a brand’s reputation and success. So, the next time you embark on the journey of branding, remember these cautionary tales and choose your name wisely!