Big brands go to huge lengths to try to control their images. Brand guidelines spell out how logos should be applied and what colours and fonts should be used. But there's one thing brands can find really hard to control, no matter how much they try.
A new survey has revealed the most widely mispronounced brand names, and the list includes some names that you probably never realised you were saying incorrectly. Others you probably know that you were saying wrong, whatever the brand itself might say (see our pick of the best branding books to learn more about branding in general).
Chances are that you've had debates with people about the pronunciation of names such as Porsche and Nike. But Nutella? IKEA? It turns out that you're probably pronouncing them incorrectly if you're not Italian or Swedish (the hazelnut spread is apparently 'new-tell-uh' and the furniture brand is not 'eye-kee-uh' but 'ee-keh-yah').
Business Name Generator (BNG) took a gander at the search volumes for 70 brands to identify those that people have the most doubts about in terms of pronunciation. Top of the list is Porsche, with some 13,700 people per month searching for 'how to pronounce / how to say Porsche' (many will be disappointed to learn that the correct German pronunciation is 'porsh-aa').
Nike's position, with 10,780 monthly searches, should come as no surprise. The question of whether it's pronounced to rhyme with 'spikey' or 'bike' has become a debate that can ruin friendships (it's the former, but that won't change things for some). Third up was Hermés with 8,820 searches per month, but try to keep a straight face as you use the correct French pronunciation, 'air-mez'. Here's the complete list with the correct pronunciation of each name.
- Porsche ('Porsh-aa')
- Nike ('Nigh-key')
- Hermés ('air-mez')
- Louis Vuitton ('Loo-ee we-taahn')
- Hyundai ('Hun-day')
- IKEA ('Ih-kay-ah')
- Audi ('O-dee')
- Yves Saint Laurent ('Eve-sahn la-rahn')
- Givenchy (Jhee-von-shee')
- Versace ('Vur-sah-chay')
- Peugeot ('Poo-zho')
- Adidas ('Add-dee-dass')
- Bvlgari (Buhl-guh-ree')
- Gucci ('Goo-chi')
- Nutella ('New-tell-uh')
- Huawei (Wah-way')
- Balenciaga ('Bah-len-see-ah-gah')
- Moschino ('Mos-key-no')
- Tag Heuer ('Tag-hoy-yer')
- Adobe ('Uh-doe-bee')
There's a notable presence of luxury and legacy brands in the results, which shouldn't be a surprise. Contemporary brands that start life with a globalised outlook from the beginning can research international pronunciation difficulties when they choose their name. That's not usually an option for brands with decades of history behind them or which are named after the designer who founded them.
Many of the names are mispronounced because they come from a language different from the speaker's. Does it matter that people are pronouncing these names wrong? Not really. Some brands, like IKEA and Hyundai, have actively promoted localised pronunciations in the past only to later ride back and try to introduce the original native pronunciation, which can be a difficult thing to do. When a name's been mispronounced for years, the correct pronunciation can simply sound wrong, and consumers won't accept it with any amount of drilling.
Sometimes going for a localised version makes more sense. Nobody's going to walk into car dealership in the UK and enquire about a 'Foaks-vaa-gun'. Chloe Chai at Business Name Generator recommends that when new businesses choose a name, marketers must "consider its phonetics and ensure that it can be easily pronounced and remembered across various languages and cultures."
This can be achieved through thorough research and testing, but localisation is often a part of the process. A brand name that is easy to pronounce and recall can contribute to heightened brand awareness and customer loyalty, but it doesn't necessarily matter if people aren't pronouncing it in the same way in every part of the world, as long as they can at least pronounce it some way.