When Utah-based PowerQuest expanded into France, the now-defunct technology company was forced to redo its logo. As product marketer Laura Shafer explained earlier this year at a breakfast meeting for the World Trade Association of Utah, the initials PQ were removed because in France PQ means toilet paper.
Some companies might think brand names made up of initials actually reduce risk of linguistic blunders in another language, but various examples prove this perception is far from true.
PowerQuest is not the only company to encounter intercultural linguistic problems with its acronym or initials. This column previously mentioned the Japanese PPPhone (pronounced “pee pee phone”), which had a perfectly valid meaning behind the two extra letters, but the pronunciation caused some snickers in the United States.
“In 1988, the General Electric Company and Plessey combined to create a new telecommunications giant,” wrote Tex Texin and Jem Shaw on a popular internationalization website. “A brand name was desired that evoked technology and innovation. The winning proposal was GPT for GEC-Plessey Telecommunications, (although it was) not very innovative … not suggestive of technology, and a total disaster for European branding. GPT is pronounced in French as ‘J’ai pété’ or ‘I've farted.’