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Brand Naming: Even Coke Can Get It Wrong
By Colin Bates

When Coke launched in China they naturally wanted to retain the 'Coca-Cola' name. There first attempt in Chinese was 'Ke-kou-ke-la' which had the benefit of sounding similar, but unfortunately meant "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect.

Coke's second brand naming attempt was more effective, using a different set of characters to present "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."

Coke isn't the only company to have problems in brand naming in new markets:

In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."

And there have been disasters in other markets too…

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go."

Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford pulled all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.

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