For many years, I was the delighted driver of Toyota's achingly brilliant MR2, first the 'ordinary' one then the leather-seated T-Bar. A glorious car that, sadly, would never take off in France, because pronounced in French it translates to emmerdeu or pain in the arse. Rolls Royce narrowly avoided naming one of its models Silver Mist after someone pointed out that mist is German for dung although this didn't stop Clairol, which actually brought its 'Mist Stick' curling iron to market there. Mitsubishi's Pajero is, as eny ful no, called a Shogun in the UK and a Montero in other European and US & South American markets. That's because pajero in Spanish means onanist. And Ford rather blew it when it took its Pinto into the Brazilian market, where in the local argot pinto refers to an under-endowed gentleman.
Kia's sporty concept for a car named Provo, caused an outburst of offended reaction in Northern Ireland where it is slang for Provisional IRA. Who was to know?
The sustained train crash of Vegemite's attempted launch of a new product a few years back tickled me from the get-go and was a gift that kept on giving, from the opening salvo right the way through to the inevitable derailing and appalling subsequent tumble down the embankment and into the oil storage depot where a guard was smoking.
We start with the fact that Vegemite is itself a poor and pallid parody of the King of Dark Salty Spreads, Marmite. Vegemite came up with a new product, an insane experiment in wrongness which makes cheesy peas seem attractive, and proposed launching a jar stuffed with a blend of Vegemite with cream cheese. The company, in a move which should have served as a history lesson for the British Natural Environment Research Council in the same way Hitler would have profited from a quick review of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, asked the public to suggest a product name.
And there it would have ended if they hadn't chosen, from the 50,000-odd suggestions, 'iSnack 2.0'. The bloke that made the suggestion noted it was a tongue in cheek effort, but that escaped the drooling idiots at Vegemite brand owner, Kraft Foods. The company's head of corporate affairs defended the name: "Vegemite iSnack 2.0 was chosen based on its personal call to action, relevance to snacking and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite to the original."
I kid you not. Even Hitler himself jumped on the bandwagon.
It's apparently now called 'Cheesybite' which is, IMHO, not a great deal better.
The daddy of them all, the fact that Coca Cola was originally dubbed 'Bite the wax tadpole' in Chinese is, sadly, not due to an outbreak of idiocy at Coke marketing central but was the result of over-eager merchants daubing signs advertising the new wonder drink in the 1920s.
Which is really something of a shame...
Mind you, the geniuses at Pepsi didn't need a new product name to make a mess of things, did they?