Add Naomi Osaka’s new company to the Marketing Blunders Hall of Fame.
The tennis star announced earlier this week that she has partnered with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James’s SpringHill to start a media company. She expessed the hope that it would produce TV shows, documentaries and branded content.
The name of the new venture, Osaka said, was Hana Kuma, which she claimed means “flower bear” in Japanese.
It didn’t take long for the Japanese-Haitian Osaka to discover it had another meaning in Swahili, where it translates to “Woman without a vagina.” An estimated 200 million people speak Swahili, the majority in East Africa.
Dozens of Twitter users in Africa piled on, urging Osaka to reconsider the name, which many called offensive.
Osaka’s venture isn’t the first company to make such a lost in translation error.
One of the most famous was chicken producer Frank Perdue, whose slogan in English was, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.” However, translated to Spanish, the phrase became, “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.”
Coors once put its slogan as “Turn it loose,” which means in Spanish, “Suffer from diarrhea.” And when Coca-Cola entered China, it was only discovered after thousands of signs were printed that the company name was rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la, which locals took to mean, “Bite the wax tadpole,” or “Female horse stuffed with wax.”
In Taiwan, rival Pepsi fared no better. Its slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”