Urban truths…for now

GM blogs about the urban legend surrounding the Nova launch in Spanish-speaking countries.  Snopes debunks the branding tale, just like stories about Nigerian bank fraud and gangs killing headlight-flashing drivers.  But I digress…with regarding to mistranslations in marketing, Snopes also debunks the Coke "bite the wax tadpole" myth.

More recently, a few examples exist of marketing missteps that you might have missed:

  • In GTI billboards, Volkswagen used the term "turbo-cojones."  Now, come on.  "Cojones" is a real word with a real definition with imagery that you don’t want to evoke in advertising.  It’s English that has altered the Spanish meaning into something less graphic.  The billboards were pulled.  Oops.
  • Guerlain, a cosmetics company in Paris, sells a popular perfume called "Samsara."  I say popular, because I first heard about this at least 15 years ago and it’s still for sale today.  In Buddhism, samsara is the cycle of life and death from which beings attempt to break free – "enlightenment" to some.  Samsara is alternately defined as hell, torture, or war.  I don’t know what this perfume smells like, but I guess you’re sending a pretty strong message when you use it.
  • Google’s a dog in China.  Or at least that’s what the literal translation sounds like, so they’ve changed the name to "Gu Ge" instead, which can be spun into something more poetic than "dog" or "old hound," terms typically reserved for rivals.

Makes you wonder – 20 years from now, are these going to go down in history as "urban legends" as well?  Or will cyberspace not forget, given its recent ability to record the facts to indelible memory?

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