Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. Mark Ritson on brandingIKEA and the false name checkThere was a bit of branding mischieftakingplacelatelastweek.Mostofthemajor papers reported a storm brew-ing over IKEA’s brand names. Foryears the furniture retailer has used Scandi-navian towns to name its products. But arecent study by two Danish academics re-vealed a bias in its naming approach.All itslow-end products, such as toilet seats arenamed after Danish towns. In contrast,higher-endproductssuchassofasarenamedafterSwedishorNorwegiantowns.Professor Klaus Kjoller from Copenha-gen University, who was reported to be oneof theco-authorsof astudyintothenamingabuses,accused IKEA of‘Swedish imperial-ism’, claiming that ‘doormats and runners,aswellasinexpensivewall-to-wallcarpetingare third-class, if not seventh-class, itemswhenitcomestohomefurnishings’.IKEA was quick to reject the accusations.‘It was a pure coincidence, and it happenedmanydecadesago,’saidIKEAspokeswomanCharlotte Lindgren. ‘The employee whochose Danish names for floor coverings re-tiredlongago.’It made for a great story but, alas, it isbogus. In February, a journalist fromNyhedsavisen, a free Danish tabloid paper,called up Professor Kjoller asking if he hadnoticed the anti-Danish bias in the latestIKEA catalogue. Kjoller, who had not seenthe catalogue, let alone completed an em-pirical study of it, played along with thejournalist because he assumed, correctly,that the article was being written with aDanish tongue firmly planted in cheek.Since then, however, Kjoller has beendeluged with media enquires and foundhimselfrepeatedlyexplainingthatthewholethingwasjustabitoffun.It is too late for that, of course. TheIKEA naming scandal will now beaddedtothelonglistof falsebrand-namingstories.The most common erroneousbrand naming case concerns theChevyNova.Accordingtobusinesslegend, GM launched the Novaaround the world very success-fully,except in Spanish-speakingThe Ford Pinto wasrumoured to havefailed in Brazil as itsname means tinymale genitalsthe Ford Pinto, which was rumouredto have failed in Brazil becausethe name means ‘tiny malegenitals’ in Portugueseslang. Again, the story isfalse; the Pinto was neverlaunchedinBrazil.Another erroneouscase concerns Coca-ColastumblinginChina,whenittranslateditsbrandintoMandarinas‘bitethewaxtadpole’. In reality, Cokeentered China in 1928and did a very proficientjob of finding fourChinese characters thatsounded similar toCoke’s English pronun-ciation and indicatedsomething positive andconsistent to Mandarinears. The charactersthat it selected are pro-nounced ‘ko-ka-ko-la’and mean ‘to allow themouthtobeabletorejoice’.Of course, there have beensome genuinely stupid brandnaming cases but they tend to beignored in favour of their untrue al-ternatives. Who can forget Mitsubi-shinaminganSUVthePajerowithoutrealisingthatthenamemeant,literal-ly,‘wanker’inSpanish?Andhowaboutwhen the consulting arm of PwC wasrenamedMondaybyWolffOlins?Ibeteveryone concerned with that onenowwishesithadbeenfiction.30 seconds on… PwC announced in 2002 that it was todemerge its consulting division andrebrand it ‘Monday’ at a cost of$110m. Barely a month later itcancelled the rebrand. In 1982, Mitsubishi named its latestSUV Pajero after the wild cat Felispajeros.After discovering that the wordwas a commonly used Spanish termfor ‘wanker’ it renamed the car inSpain, the Americas and the UK. In 1994, telecoms firm Orange had to change its ‘The future’sbright… the future’sOrange’ ads in NorthernIreland. In that area, Orangeis synonymous with theOrange Order; the impliedmessage was that ‘The future’sbright ... the future’s ProtestantLoyalist’, which didn’t sit too wellwith the country’s Catholicpopulation. When Starbucks opened in Germanyits latte coffee caused amusementas ‘latte’ is a well-known Germanword for an erection.genuine naming blunders12 March 2008 | Marketing | 23countries where the car fared misera-bly. GM eventually realised that thename Nova meant ‘no go’ in Spanishandquicklyrenamedthesub-brand.Unfortunately,noneof itistrue.TheNovasoldverywellinSpanish-speakingcountriesbecausethenameof thecarisstressedonthefirstsyllable,renderingitvery different from the ‘no go’ phrasewhichstressesthesecondsyllable.Asim-ilar,andequallyuntrue,storyexistsabout