Examples Of Brand-Name Failures In The US (better explanation in OP)

The history of business is filled with examples of brands expanding into foreign markets, with embarrassing results due to mistakes in translation, failure to understand the culture, etc.

For example, when Ford introduced the Pinto to Brazil, the company failed to realized that “Pinto” was slang for “little penis.”*

What are some examples of foreign companies trying to bring products to the US market, with similarly embarrassing results?

I can only think of one: Australian hair-removal product Nads. Apparently the Australians failed to realize that “nads” is American slang for testicles.

What are some others?

The Mitsubishi Pajero is/was marketed in Spanish speaking countries as “Montero” as “pajero” apparently means w***er in Spanish.

Grupo Bimbo is the biggest bakery company in Mexico. They’ve expanded into the U.S., though the brand name “Bimbo” has unfortunate connotations in American English.

The Chevy Nova is a famous one. Basically translates as “no go” or “doesn’t go.” Not good for a car!

Just to note that the OP is specifically asking for non-U.S. brands which ran into issues with their brand/product names when they introduced them to the U.S. market. Sort of “the Reverse Nova Effect.”

That’s been subsequently proven to be greatly exaggerated.

The Spanish word “nova,” without a space between the first two syllables, means the same thing as it does in English (the astronomical event). Always has. Any Hispanophone would have known that.

There are two German companies that I know of that use their unusual-sounding names in the US. As far as I know, they just put up with the sniggers and continue on with business as usual:


I just realized I need a blue lion-bear-eagle-chameleon-cheetah plush toy with “Assmann” on the tummy for my desk.

Ayds was not a foreign brand whose owners failed to recognize its embarrassing name in the U.S. market. It was an American brand that preceded HIV-Aids by decades.

It’s happened with natives as well: the founders of Oxnard, California should have envisaged how far immature people like myself would go for a snigger.

Right. It’s more of a joke than a real instance.

“Spanish-speaking countries” includes the US market. Hacerse una paja, “to make straw,” is slang for masturbation (possibly from the motion of stripping grains from a wheat stalk). So pajero equates to “wanker” or “jerk-off.” For the same reason birdwatchers avoid referring to themselves as pajareros (from pajaro, bird), since it sounds too much like pajero. Instead it’s observadores de aves.

I saw my first Pajero in a French-speaking country in Africa with a Spanish-speaking friend, and we both had a laugh over it.

They mostly figured that one out pretty quick, and now mostly only market Bimbo stuff to the Hispanic population, and to the normal US population through their Mrs. Baird’s, Oroweat, Sara Lee and Wonder Bread brands (along with some others).

I don’t think they ever tried to introduce it in the US, for reasons that will be altogether obvious, but there’s a French soda with the name


I first encountered it on a trip to France in high school with a bunch of high schoolers who, learning the name, acted like high schoolers.
“Don’t give that Pschitt!”

“Yeah, well you’re fulla Pschitt!”

“Keep your Pschitt to yourself”
“Don;t get that Pschitt on me.”
Et cetera et cetera ad nauseum.

I assume the French name is supposed to be onomatapoeic, like the sound of opening a carbonated drink.

The company was around a lot longer than the disease.

Wayne’s World forever corrupted a good German (Founded in Germany, 1934 and came to America 1974) name in concrete pumping machinery.

With today’s slang, using “Sick!” in advertising could work in their favor :smiley:

Yeah, Bimbo products have done fine, where I’ve lived. Definitely not a “failure.”


I first encountered it on a trip to France in high school with a bunch of high schoolers who, learning the name, acted like high schoolers.[/QUOTE]

Ahhh, Pschitt. The official drink of American teenagers in France. One of the guys on my trip kept trying euphemize the pronunciation. Skit, pih-sheet, piskit - he tried all sorts of pronunciations. The waiter was confused until I finally said “SHIT” and our drinks arrived immediately.

Of course, the drink was always served at room temperature, like all soft drinks in Europe, but that’s a different marketing failure.

There was a children’s Japanese Super Nintendo game that was brought over to the US as “Spanky’s Quest”, and you played as a Monkey. Obviously nobody in Japan understood the sexual pun and the game failed to sell, presumably because of the bizarre title that turned most buyers off who were looking for a kids game.