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Friday, October 28, 2011 (read 749 times)

How not to promote your products in Spanish!

by Matthew Leake

Imagine a huge international corporation about to release its flagship new product. The company has committed thousands of man hours and spent unthinkable sums of money developing said product so that it is state of the art and better than the competition when it is released. Then comes the promotion side of things which costs even more valuable time and money but is just as essential, after all what is the point in trying to sell something if no one knows about it? The effort that goes into the marketing of products is huge, even something seemingly as simple as the name is the result of months of meetings and brainstorming sessions with ideas constantly being thrown out and new ones being brought in.

Now imagine how phone manufacturer Nokia must have felt when they found out the name of their brand new smartphone, the “Lumia”, is a derogatory Spanish term for a prostitute. You would think that the bosses of Nokia were not best pleased and someone probably lost their job for seriously compromising their phone’s sales in the Spanish speaking market.

However, this is not the first time companies have tried to sell their products in Spain or Latin America only to find out they were being laughed at for the name they chose. Other famous examples include car manufacturer GM’s “Nova”, which had an exotic sounding name to many, but to a Spanish speaker actually reads as “Does not move”. Sales of the “Nova” are believed to have suffered as a result. Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi on the other hand were more cunning when they changed the name of their car for the Spanish market. The “Pajero”, which in Spanish is a very rude insult, became the “Montero” and no Spaniards were offended.

These examples, although funny for the general public, teach very important lessons to big companies who want to sell their products worldwide as they could potentially lose huge amounts of money. It also shows how useful it is to be able to speak foreign languages in business, especially Spanish!!!

Keywords: business spanish, spanish mistakes, errors in spanish, spanish market, spanish companies, business in spanish, sales in spain, spanish products, famous spanish mistakes


1 » Sofia (on Thursday, November 03, 2011) said:

I'm going to have to beg to differ with what Karen posted, with Snopes, and with those trying to but the best face on the "Nova" legend. While it may be true that sales were not significantly hurt by the name, it is presumptious to assume that native speakers in Mexico and other places didn't get a good laugh from the joke made by the name. I lived in Mexico City as a child from 1973-1976, where my father was a visiting professor. There were numerous conversations about the silliness of the name. It is likewise silly to assume that consumers would turn down a good deal simply because of a linguistic "goof". I remember many who giggled and bought the car anyway.

2 » Karen (on Monday, October 31, 2011) said:

I also heard this "nova" story in my early Spanish classes and believed it until a wise teacher corrected me....see Snopes for more information, but the long and short of it is that the word "nova" exists in Spanish and means the same as it does in English...una estrella nova....

3 » amelia (on Thursday, December 15, 2011) said:

jajaja,no se me habría ocurrido nunca pensar lo de "nova".nova,como todo el mundo sabe,significa otra forma,iría separado.

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