The recent Audi branding saga reminded me of other awful car name ideas from the past. So here follows some of the very worst in brand errors within the automotive market, none of them from Audi, and all of them Japanese. Perhaps things get lost in translation?
Mitsubishi created a low, fast and sporty car in the 1980s to help boost its brand image. Sadly, they called it the ‘Starion’, and the urban myth that someone on the phone misheard the word ‘Stallion’ was born.
Mazda Bongo Friendee
Just read that name out loud. Think about it. Then think about it some more. Nope, there’s definitely no way to say that name with any dignity.
Another Mitsubishi clanger. The word Pajero means something very rude in Spanish. You can use Google Translate if you fancy, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. If I were living in Spain, I certainly wouldn’t buy one. What makes this case even stranger is that the very same car was actually called the ‘Shogun’ in the UK, so the company already had badges and trademarks in place to cover themselves for the Spanish market ahead of release. They still went ahead with Pajero.
There are many ‘worst car names of all time’ articles, but none are quite like this – basically because I have a worryingly detailed knowledge of the Japanese car market. Thus, I give you the Daihatsu Thor. Take that Jalopnik.
Someone in Japan must be a big fan of the Marvel comics. The fact that the Daihatsu Thor is a tiny, upright, boxy city car with a mighty 69hp makes it the absolute opposite of a hammer-wielding Norse god.
Oh, here’s another bad name from Mitsubishi, the Carisma. Mainly because the car had no real charisma, with the only redeeming feature being a direct injection system engine. Who exactly is going to expel the virtues of GDI to their friends? No one, they talk about speed, economy, style and technology. Sadly, the Carisma did not feature those and was as dull as dishwater. Perhaps it was meant to be ironic?
A definition of the word ‘hustler’ could be “a person adept at aggressive selling or illicit dealing.” So why on earth would Suzuki think ‘Hustler’ would be a good name for an urban SUV? Completely beyond me. Perhaps it features a lot of cubby holes to hide away dodgy dealings.
Ha, seriously, stop it Mitsubishi. This has to be a joke now, right? Oh, it’s not. I bet they thought this name was as cool as an iceberg back in 1990.
While this has been fun to write, there is much to be learned from these naming (and shaming) shenanigans. From a marketing point of view, you will want a name that both stands out and is instantly memorable. On the other hand, consumers are drawn to something that is easy and straightforward. Alliteration and one syllable can go down a treat.
Never forget to do your research, and definitely ensure that it works on a global level. Even if you are not a global operation now, you may be some day, and thanks to the internet, bad news travels faster than a souped up Dodge Rampage (now there was a name). Take heed, and don’t call your next product or service something that is easy to mock or needs a chart to explain. The last thing you want is for me to make a blog about your branding missteps.
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