Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a series of posts outlining nine steps that will help you create the perfect name for your company, product, service, e-book, or app. This article is Part 7 of the series, focusing on analyzing your name for linguistic conflicts. Read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 here.
Now that you have your shortlist of names ready, it’s time to take the first step in validating your name – checking for linguistic conflicts. While you may be focused on just getting your startup recognized in your city now, there may come a time in a few years where your company is ready to expand internationally.
Even if international expansion is in the distant future, you need to weigh the potential impacts now as you create your name. You don’t want to find out that your name means something terribly offensive in the country you’re expanding to – rebranding is an expensive and risky endeavor.
How to check linguistic viability
Depending on your budget, there are several ways that you can check your potential name for linguistic conflicts. One option – free, but time-consuming – is to use an online translator like Google Translate or Word Reference to check your name in different languages. Keep an eye out for anything offensive, or a translation that goes against your brand image.
As an example, when Chevy expanded their Nova car line to Latin America, they didn’t offend anyone with their name. However, they found that consumers weren’t interested in buying a car that means “doesn’t go” in Spanish!
Another option is to enlist the help of professionals. While this will tend to be a more expensive option, it will save you time and ensure that your name is safe in all languages. You can hire a professional translator to do this, or use a linguistic analysis service, like the one offered by Squadhelp, to check the validity of your name abroad.
Why you should look at linguistics
Many companies, from startups to large corporations, have learned the importance of linguistic analysis the hard way. Here are a few examples of companies that have had linguistic roadblocks on their road to international expansion.
When Ford executives decided to take their four-door sedan, the Ford Pinto, international, they had good sales in most South American countries. However, there was one notable exception – Brazil. As it turns out, Brazilians were not clamoring to purchase a car that means “male genitals” in Portuguese.
Mazda found themselves marketing something slightly different than their three-door hatchback in Spanish. The Mazda Laputa, named after a fictional flying island in Gulliver’s Travels, translated to something less wholesome in Spanish – “la puta” means “the whore”.
Nokia’s low-cost smartphone, the Lumia, was marketed and sold to countries across the globe. While the name “lumia” sounds enticing in English, Spanish speakers got an entirely different meaning from the name – “lumia” is Spanish slang for a lady of the night.
In today’s global, online society, you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your new name means nothing surprising or inappropriate in another language. Completing some form of linguistic analysis will set you up for success in the future if you decide to expand internationally. In part 8 of the series, we’ll look at another aspect of validating your name – legal analysis.