Be different (but the same, pretty much!) Why do companies have different names for the same brands

Today’s instalment of #RainyBrandingTuesday has been inspired by brands around me (I’m in San Francisco at the moment).

In California, crisps are not called Walkers, but Lays (as in Spain and other countries). And TKMaxx – a famous outlet for designer brands in the UK – is known as TJmaxx.

Some other examples spring to mind: Italian ice-cream Algida is Walls in the UK and in Spain,  it’s Frigo.

Bold – the washing machine liquid or powder – is known Bolt in Italy. Or again, Diet Coke is Coca-Cola Light in most Mediterranean countries. Vauxhall cars are known as Opel in Europe; the Belgian mobile operator “Base” is often jokingly pronounced “Bezz” by French speakers, and the list could go on…

But why?

Well, for different reasons.

The main underlying reason though is related to translation, and more specifically localization.

One of the best examples I’ve read about recently in an article by Adam Wooten mentions a Swedish car magazine named “Fart.”

It's not what it looks like...

It’s not what it looks like…

The name makes sense when you know that “fart” is a Swedish word meaning “speed.” Though the title caused no fuss in the magazine’s home country, there was considerable embarrassment when magazine staff traveled to international races and events. And again: “In Japan, automakers have marketed the Nissan Moco and the Mazda Laputa. Imagine exporting to Spain or any Spanish-speaking country…  where “moco” means booger and “laputa” sounds like some slang word for, well, prostitute. 

Sometimes, it’s just sensible to change name for a different country. The Huffington Post mentions the example of a Californian ice cream company.

The founders get equal recognition after all.

The founders get equal recognition after all.

Founded in 1928 by business partners William Dreyer and Joseph Edy in northern California, it was known as Edy’s Grand Ice Cream until 1947, when Mr. Edy left the business. In 1953, Mr. Dreyer took over and renamed the company. In 1981 the company expanded to the East Coast, but decided to use the Edy’s name because they thought the name Dreyer’s might get confused with Breyer’s, an East Coast ice cream brand. 

This also happens in translation, especially when companies create divisions under the same umbrella brand, that will then be used as trading names.

The pharmaceutical sector does the same, but not always (think of Nurofen or Yasmin but remember that Aspirine is AspirinA in Italy).

Localization is a fairly good reason alone for doing this but there are also also other points that are actually very important when exporting abroad. Another reason are legal issues, that may prevent sales under an already registered name.

This answer I found on Quora provides a nice recap:

  • EXPANSION: In some cases, a multinational buys local industries of a specific product (like Unilever did with local ice cream companies in many countries) as a market strategy. Where the name of national brand is strong, it is common to keep the original name, even when the international visual identity is adopted.
  •  LANGUAGE: In other cases the international name of the product may be inappropriate or even offensive in a specific language or local slang. One example is the SUV Pajero from Mitsubishi. “Pajero” in some Spanish speaking countries is slang for masturbation (that’s why it’s been later changed to “Montero”)
  • LEGAL: In the last case, there is a possibility that a local brand previously owned the legal right to use a name similar or identical of the multinational product. Usually, the multinational offers to buy the local brand just to use the name on their own product. When the deal fails, another name has to be created.

So, what are the takeaways? Differentiating brands: 


Want to read more?

  1. Business Insider –
  2. Some brands do not translate well –
  3. The Huffington Post on different brand names
  4. A bad case of translation: “fart” –

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