Companies and brands can exist without a logo, but not without a name. The simple reason why you need a good name for your brand is because there is competition. Therefore the companies are looking for a name that will transmit the characteristics of their products and will differentiate them from the others.

Every company aims at choosing a name that sounds international. This way the product could use the same marketing campaign in every country and sell itself to a larger target. But the companies meet a big struggle with choosing commercial name for their brand, because there are a lot of languages and not always a brand sounds equally good in different countries. There are some historical cases like Ford Corrida in 1976 and some actual cases like Nokia Lumia (“Lumia” means prostitute on castellano) to illustrate an example of that.

How are we supposed to avoid such issues while brainstorming the name of the brand?

In their commitment to cover the international market some brands end up “lost in translation”, i.e. the company chooses name that works good in the states but not so good in Japan or Spain. The reason why is that some names implicate certain negative associations which affect over your brand’s image. A company may have the greatest marketing strategy but not always this strategy is relevant to different cultures and languages.

One of the real cases is Nokia Lumia. If you hear Lumia and you live in US, then probably you will associate the name with Nokia. But if you ask a native Spaniard about Lumia he will think about different thing, because Lumia is synonym of prostitute. The blogger Chris Matuszczyk first wrote about this case “ I read this morning that Nokia’s fine new smartphone, the Lumia, translates into Spanish as “prostitute.” It’s undeniable that “Lumia” sounds good, but clearly the sounding is not the only key component. The meaning of the name is important too.

Nokia Lumia meaning

Another examples of similar situations are Mazda LaputaNissan Moco and Mitsubishi Pajero. The first one made many people who understand castellano laugh because “Laputa is designed to resist on frontal crashes”.


If you still don’t get what’s so funny about it better call Google Translate for help. Eventually neither Mazda nor Nissan made good sales in Spain. Mitsubishi Pajero (pajero=wanker, Spanish) learned their lesson and changed the model’s name to Mitsubishi Montero (nice one).

Mitsubishi Montero Mitsubishi Pajero

The next curios case is Opel Ascona. The model has been sold well all over the world except in Portugal. Ascona translates in Portuguese as “vagina” and you hardly know a man who would ride a car, named after woman’s genitalia.

Ascona Opel-ascona-retro-ad

Possible solutions

These examples show us that a brand’s name could be acceptable in one country, but unacceptable in another. Highnames is a naming service company that can select name for your brand based on researches in different cultures and languages. The goal is our clients to end up with a commercial name for their brand that would be equally relevant in the countries the product shall be marketed in.