Case Study: Is the New Brand Name Offensive Somewhere?

The client:
Inspired ideas that simply sell. That’s the tag line of Yamamoto, a well-known Minneapolis-based ad agency. They have a reputation for custom-crafted, highly creative work.
Their question: Does this word mean anything in Swahili or Arabic or Chinese?
Yamamoto came to Tembua for help evaluating a new brand name they had created for a client. Because the name was a nonsense word with no meaning in English, they were concerned that they may have accidentally stumbled on a foreign word that some people found offensive.
Who’s going to see that name?
Tembua approached this interesting assignment by first asking for the geographic regions where the new brand name would be promoted and assigning languages to each. For foreign countries both the primary and secondary languages were used. For regions of the United States, we pulled language usage data from the US Census Bureau and chose the top languages for each.
How did we answer their question?
Tembua’s project manager created a simple questionnaire that asked if the new brand name meant anything in one’s language; if the sound of the name had any connotations–negative or positive; if the name was similar to another product in a different category or a geographic designation; if that name sounded like any offensive terms.
The questionnaire was sent to 5 native speakers of each of the languages identified. The names were chosen from Tembua’s extensive list of translators, interpreters, writers, editors and subject matter experts around the world. They were asked to report first impressions and then write a sentence or two about the brand name.
Tembua’s report to the client
Yamamoto received from Tembua a complete report on any meaning, possible offensive connotations and other impressions of the brand name in each of the languages surveyed. For example, one linguist reported it sounded like a calm body of water in his language.
Yamamoto’s client was pleased with the results and went ahead to use the brand name and related collateral with confidence.
Yamamoto is one example of how Tembua uses its expertise to assist clients all along the linguistic value chain!
Contact me to ask if we can help with your language questions!
Patricia May
President and CEO


About tembua

Tembua: The Precision Language Solution provides comprehensive linguistic services for 100 languages to private industry and government agencies on a global scale. Services include document and website translation and localization; conference and 24/7 telephonic interpretation; glossary development; proofreading, text adaptation, editing, multilingual design and DTP; transcription; technical / custom authoring editing, foreign search engine optimization; translation memory management; subtitling.
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