The 8 Most Ill-Conceived Product Names of All-Time
If you ever took Marketing 101, chances are you've heard the tale of how the Chevy Nova couldn't sell in South America. The Nova's sales supposedly tanked because the Spanish phrase "no va" literally translates as "no go."
Sometimes language hurdles are to blame, but in most cases we can chalk these names up to good ol' human stupidity.
The TrekStor i.Beat.blaxx
In August 2007, the German electronics manufacturer TrekStor tried to capitalize on the Apple iPod phenomenon with their own MP3 player. But what to name it? They knew they had to get the "i" in front of whatever word they decided on, to bring the iPod to mind. How about "beat" to signify all of the phat beats the customers will play on it? And it's black. Thus,
TrekStor's press release claimed that the device "precisely reflects the desires of the young, trend-conscious target group we are aiming for." And by that target group, they apparently meant the Klan.
The ensuing shitstorm caught TrekStor by surprise. The company's president tried to smooth things over in a letter explaining that the word "beat" is "not meant as a verb, but refers to the beats of the music you are listening to." And to be fair, the guy had to wonder what the same protesters thought they would find in the pages of Black Beat magazine.
Knowing that this explanation would placate absolutely no one (barring that small contingent of confused, hip-hop-loving Klansmen)...
... TrekStor immediately rechristened the gadget the "TrekStor blaxx," a name which we presume would've replaced "Geordi La Forge" had Dolemite starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"La Forge, muthafucka!"
Retardex toothpaste is the first line of defense against bad breath and cavity-causing bacteria. It's also the most poorly named oral hygiene product since the Gator Gripper, a terrifying children's tooth extractor that is one part Tooth Fairy, two parts Yakuza loan shakedown.
Retardex is a British brand, so we can't blame a poor translation here. We scoured the Retardex website for the origin of this dentifrice's imbecilic name and didn't find an explanation. Is it from a simpler time? When did the word "retard" ever have a positive connotation? Yes, we get that it "retards" the progress of tooth decay, so we guess you can justify it in the same way you could justify calling your new ultra-slim LED television an "Anorexiatron."
Hell, in the time we spent writing this, we came up with half a dozen more marketable names; including Dentodex, Mouthoflex and, our favorite, Tyrannosaurusrex.
K.U.M. Hair Care
In his Web biography, K.U.M. CEO Joseph Chimenti notes his "passion for the hair care profession as evidenced by over 40 years experience covering every aspect of the business." Call us crazy, but we're pretty sure 40 years of experience would tell you not to name your shampoo after dick seed.
How did the K.U.M. line get its lamentable name? Well, the brand harnesses the extract of nature's most mocked fruit, the kumquat.
We're no marketing wizards, but wouldn't have been way less awkward simply to name the brand Q.U.A.T.? Think of the lawsuits (and black eyes) your barber would avoid if he could instead say that he was rubbing a load of refreshing Q.U.AT. into your scalp.
K.U.M. products are sold only to high-end salons, meaning it'll cost you a pretty penny to goop up your coif. You could also save a buck and get that same silky luster using a roomful of onanistic Japanese businessmen.
Some of them will even pay you.
And while we're on the subject, let's go ahead and mention...
Nad's Natural Hair Removal
In 20th century Anglophonic parlance, the word "nads" is short for gonads (a.k.a. balls). Most third grade graduates are aware of this. How the founder of an Australian bikini waxing empire missed the boat is beyond us.
According to the Nad's website, founder Sue Ismiel is "a mother who created an extremely effective, natural, no heat, hair removal product for her young daughter from ingredients she found in her own kitchen." Despite the homespun appeal of this origin story, it teaches us almost nothing about her product. For all we know, Sue was dousing her kid in a cocktail of Tabasco and oven cleaner.
"Hey, a bunch of stuff. I bet I could make some sweet nads outta this."
Perhaps Sue's savvier than we give her credit for. After all, we just gave her depilating gunk a shitload of free publicity just because its name is a euphemism for "scrotum." We think she might be onto something here, so don't be surprised if the site goes through some changes if you check back tomorrow...
The IKEA Fartfull
IKEA is famous for slapping unintelligible names on unassembleable furniture. Every so often, one of these names smashes headfirst against the language barrier, causing IKEA's English-speaking consumers to titter like schoolgirls. We're looking at you, Lessebo loveseat.
Tee hee! Also, "titter."
But our favorite terribly-named, ergonomically bankrupt IKEA contraption has to be the Fartfull kids' workbench. In 2005, this half-desk, half-mystery hit stores, tantalizing hipster parents with visions of a more productive (if perpetually gassy) child.
Is it table? A rickshaw? An ice cream cart?
Although "Fartfull" merely meant "speedy" in Swedish, IKEA eventually pulled the doohickey from their website. Between its name and design, we wouldn't be surprised if more than one child mistook it for a portable toilet. Hell, maybe that's what it is.
The Reebok Incubus
Reebok introduced this women's running shoe in 1995, a time when naming your sneaker was as important to marketing as curing cancer is to science. What this shoe ultimately proved was that Reebok's ad team consisted entirely of a random word generator and a macaw who only knew the word "yes."
If you're confused, an incubus is an evil spirit that, in medieval times, would descend upon women and have sex with them. That's right, Reebok was marketing rape shoes.
This is a Google Image Result for Incubus, and Reebok (wisely) tried to distill its essence into a shoe.
Fortunately for Reebok, the public at large wasn't up to speed on demons with a penchant for non-consensual sex, and the error went unnoticed for about a year until ABC News caught on. In the end, Reebok shipped out a bunch of labels to cover over the name on approximately 53,000 shoeboxes.
Reebok made an about face in its marketing strategy not long after, instead focusing on the hip-hop lifestyle which has never been known to demean women in any way.
Just ask Reebok spokesman Nelly, seen here in a rare moment of not telling women to take off all their clothes.
Wack Off! Insect Repellent
Army surplus stores are magical places where you can find World War II side arms and the mummified thumbs of dead terrorists. In Australia, amongst the boomerangs and Paul Hogan-endorsed machetes, you can also find the fabled Wack Off! bug lotion.
The Wack Off! brand raises some curious implications. First, the product's name is an imperative - it commands the consumer to drop whatever he's doing to repel mosquitoes... or pleasure himself.
"Don't mind if I do!"
Also, the product proudly boasts "AS USED BY THE ARMED FORCES." To take this encomium at face value is to assume that the Australian military exclusively recruits chronic masturbators. Which, to be fair, would be a hilariously disturbing form of psychological warfare. What would YOU do against a platoon of angry Aussies, dicks a-wagging?
"Remember: Follow my stroke until you see the whites of their eyes."
Nintendo DS Touch Dic
Alright, so here is a case where it probably was a "lost in translation" issue to a degree. But the result made the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame.
The year is 1995, and Nintendo has set the gaming world on fire with their new DS system, built entirely around its touch screen. So you're a Korean company, wanting to make a piece of dictionary software that takes advantage of the touch screen capabilities. Touch... Dictionary... just need to shorten it up, to make it snappier, something cool that the kids will remember.
Oh, how many English speakers ordered copies of this game, oh how many hugely, hugely disappointed men saw their erection wilt under screen after screen displaying nothing but Korean words. Oh, how many had an awkward conversation as they tried to return their copies to the store, unable to make eye contact as they explained that they, uh, didn't need to learn Korean after all.
We can sympathize, guys. Thanks to mistranslations, every trip of ours abroad has ended in numerous embarrassing situations...
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