What’s in a name?

Naming cars is no easy task for automakers, as Steve Brown reported to Fox News. Brown asked our colleague Andy, one of our Chinese naming specialists, about a huge naming blunder made by Nissan.

Nissan translated the name for its Bluebird sedan as “Lan-Niao” in Chinese. In Mandarin, “lan” means “blue” and “niao” means “bird,” nissan-bluebirdso there didn’t seem to be a problem.

However, the reading of the characters for “lan niao” in the Minnan dialect (Hokkien-Taiwanese) is “lan jiao,” which has a completely different—and very embarrassing—meaning.

Early this year we did a billboard campaign for Radio Liberty in Kabul and several other towns in Afghanistan where different dialects are spoken. Most Americans are unaware of the languages spoken in a country where we are spending so much money and manpower! Many emerging markets still use billboards as a key way to communicate a brand. Our team quickly customized the messaging for each region to be displayed in several dialects because imagine insulting those guys… they’ll go to war over it!

So the next time you have a brand naming issue, whether it be a service, derivative, food product, company name, or any positioning-messaging you want to export, have my team of specialists do a thorough linguistic analysis and test it’s application globally. This process will check the slang, pronunciation, memorabelity, and other aspects of a translation so that you won’t ever have to make the same mistake. gkBRAND has been performing this service for a long time, and can provide fast and accurate feedback from over 175 cities worldwide.

– Emily Tella, Project Manager at gkBRAND

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