Nov 29 2006

Global Naming “Gotchas” Trip Up Microsoft and General Motors

Published by at November 29, 2006 2:15 pm under Globalization,Internationalization,Localization,Translation

…Later this year PC users in Latvia can look forward to a chicken on every disk when Microsoft releases Vista, which in Latvian means “frumpy woman” or “chicken.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, Microsoft media users in Quebec raised their eyebrows last summer when the company announced its new Zune media player. It seems that “Zune” sounds like “zoune,” a dated, cutesy slang term for genitalia in la belle province. Microsoft dismissed the homophony as a nonissue and said that the association of the slang term with its music player was “quite a stretch.”

The bottom line: We assume that Microsoft decided that giving 1.3 million Latvians a good laugh or unduly offending a few million Québecois wasn’t worth sacrificing otherwise good product names.

Microsoft isn’t alone. Last year General Motors rolled out its Buick LaCrosse in Canada, causing sophomoric twitters among those same francophones in Quebec. It seems that “la crosse” is a slang term for self-gratification. Every guy wants his ride to make him feel like a stud, but this name went a bit too far for Buick, whose average buyer is 68 years old.

….Whenever one of our clients decides to take a product or a brand name beyond its home turf, I always recommend that they get help on linguistic, cultural, economic, and legal issues.

…don’t take the chance of being the subject of blog entries and sophomoric twitters for something so easily avoided.

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One response so far

One Response to “Global Naming “Gotchas” Trip Up Microsoft and General Motors”

  1. Ronon 04 Jun 2007 at June 4, 2007 9:17 pm

    These humorous or provocative naming ‘missteps’ might actually help these companies stand out from the crowd. It’s unlikely they intended these things, though the result is not necessarily harmful. Getting people to write about them in blogs could be considered a marketing coup in itself.