Are YOU mispronouncing brand names like Nike, Porsche & Ikea?

Wonder why people smirk when you say Stella Artois, giggle when you utter Givenchy or howl laughing when you attempt Hyundai? It’s maybe because these are just 3 of the top 30 mispronounced brand names on the planet. Want to know how to say them properly (and save yourself from terminal embarrassment?) then read on…

From fashion to food, it seems that there are certain names we just can’t seem to say quite right. The research was conducted by Made by Oomph! and includes a rather nifty infographic which phonetically spells out the most commonly mispronounced brands and then provides the correct way to say them. Handy.

So where to start? Top of the list for me, Nike. The debate has raged for years about how to pronounce their name, originally taken from the name of the Greek goddess of victory. So are you on Team ‘Nyke’ or Team ‘Ni-key’ ? Well the discussion is finally over. In June 2014, Phil Knight (Co-Founder & Chairman at Nike, so he should know) was sent a letter asking him to circle the correct pronunciation of the iconic brand. The variant he circled? Ni-key. I knew it 😉

Now what about the premium car marque Porsche? Well, as a self confessed petrol head, I have always been adamant that it was ‘Porsh’ so imagine my surprise (aka irritation) to discover that it is indeed pronounced ‘Por-sha’ (I really should have believed those Top Gear boys instead of shouting at the TV every time they were actually using the right pronunciation).

But surely that’s the only auto brand I’ve been pronouncing incorrectly all these years. Well, actually no, it seems like I have also got Lam-bor-gee-nee and Vo-ks var-gun (the L is silent apparently) wrong as well. But at least I knew how to say Hun-day (Hyundai, in case you hadn’t spotted it) instead of Hi-un-dye. Although after 10 years spent in Asia, I had been corrected so often that it was bound to stick eventually. The only annoying thing is that now I’m living back in the UK, I get pilloried for pronouncing it correctly. Now that’s messed up.

OK so it’s evident that, after all, I really didn’t know how to say many car brands properly. So would I fare any better when it comes to retail brands? Ikea for example? Hmm, as it happens, the answer is a resounding no. As a long term supporter of Eye-key-ah, it seems that it should be Ih-key-ah. But what’s a vowel sound between friends? Or another lost Sunday afternoon trudging around a warehouse of competitively priced self-assembly furniture with the sole redemption of cheap (but rather tasty) meatballs awaiting you after check out…

And as for fashion brands? Suffice to say, I got most of them wrong too (am maybe not best known for my sartorial elegance). Hermes? Well it’s not Her-meez. It’s Air-mez. Balmain? Not as it looks after all. It should be Bal-mah.Balenciaga? Always had a problem with this one, to the extent that I never even bothered to try and say it. But now I know it’s Bah-len-see-ah-gah I might even be tempted to venture into one of their shops to buy something. Then again, given the prices, maybe not…

So (come on, be honest) how many of these brand names have you been pronouncing incorrectly? And, more importantly, what others would you add to the list?

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Steve Blakeman is Managing Director - Global Accounts for OMD based in London / Paris. He was named by LinkedIn as a Top 10 Writer for Marketing & Social for 2015 (Top Voices) and also 'Agency Publisher of the Year' for EMEA. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter