Chevy Nova compressedDateline: Madison Avenue, NYC

Is the Chevy Nova the automotive poster-child for cross-cultural marketing mishaps? Legend has it that the marketing brass at General Motors were determined to market the Nova similarly both north and south of the border, and thus managed to create an early marketing mistake. As you who speak Spanish know, “No Va,” in Spanish means “doesn’t go,” or “won’t go” or something similar that’s not considered a desirable quality in a car. Of course this was in the 1970’s, back when many dealership trade-ins in Mexico were tired, old burros. And a little research reveals that this is an apocryphal tale that isn’t even true. But it’s fun nonetheless, and does provide a handy intro into today’s topic: Mexican brands which are likely humorous or funny-sounding to a Gringo ear.

While the below can’t exactly be characterized as marketing mishaps, they are all Mexican brands which range from somewhat amusing to downright hysterical to the average Gringo who finds him/herself south of the border. And of course, the less time you’ve spent in Mexico, the funnier the brands really are. Because while familiarity may breed contempt, it most certainly breeds disinterest, particularly in all things initially humorous.

One of the older such brands which is now making some headway in the US sunbelt is Bimbo, the bread company. Of course, drop the word “bimbo” into a random, Gringo conversation, and bread is not the first thing that comes to mind, though perhaps buns do.

Gringos' first thought is not bread

It’s not polite to play with your Bimbo at lunch time!

And then there are Mexican brands which try to add a certain foreign, usually American, cachet by dropping English, or English-sounding words into promos, adverts, and even brand names. Feeling hungry?

May not work as well NOB

May not work as well NOB

Of course if you work in high-tech, for you, FUD is an acronym meaning “fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” a technique long employed by big tech to try to slow the adoption of emerging tech’s new products. But south of the border, pronounced by a Mexican, Fud sounds an awful lot like the English word “Food,” and is a line of processed meat products, sausage, cold cuts and the like. But to the English-speaking eye, it just doesn’t look quite as appetizing.

And how about snack cakes? To the average Mexican (never mind Brit), Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies and the like probably sound pretty ridiculous. (“What do you mean, you’re going to eat Little Debbie?!?”) So the below brand is probably going to bring a smile to Gringo lips. (Just keep it away from the kids!)

Don't blame us if you give this to the kids

We are not responsible for any post-consumption temper tantrums!

In the USA, DieHard is probably the top brand of car battery, and the name gives you the comforting sense that the battery will fight to the end on your behalf. But would you be inclined to buy a battery that sounds like it’s a goner fresh out of the box? Look for special promotions every November second.

Dead the minute you install it

I dare you to put one of these in your Chevy Nova

And Mexicans are pretty famous for a certain casual disregard for copyright. On trips SOB it’s quite common to see Micky Mouse and other Gringo icons — protected by phalanxes of lawyers NOB — being used with casual abandon on taco stands, restaurants, and the like. Take that!, Disney. Of course Mexican corporations can’t get away with such behavior. At least not explicitly. But evoking famous Gringo icons and riding their coat tails in a simultaneously subtle yet obvious kind of way is fair game.

Spanish for

Spanish for “Duff”

Of course, when you dig a bit deeper, you find that the orange hand belongs not to Homer Simpson, but to his Mexican brother-in-law. Or someone somehow, sort of related. Cerveza Homero is a franchise for depositos, or beer stores, or a kind of bar and grill. Truth be told, I’ve never seen one in the flesh, as it were.

But keep the Cerveza Homero away from your car. Automotive lubrication and performance fluids are no laughing matter, especially when you’re out on some lonely Mexican highway, miles from the nearest Ángel Verde (Mexico’s “Green Angels” roadside repair service). But I’ve never considered Ohio cities synonymous with quality lubrication, nor automotive speed and style.

From the Lubricant Capital of the World

From the Lubricant Capital of the World

For the longest time, there was an ENORMOUS billboard at the corner of Insurgentes Sur and Reforma emblazoned with “Akron!”  And of course, advertising pays, right? I’ll certainly never forget it, since it made me smile each time I saw it.

They make car waxes and polishes too.


Full “Akron” for your car: inside and out.

And our last image isn’t a brand, but rather a cartoon by the well-known Mexican cartoonist and satirist, Trino, that I came across while searching for brand images. The caption reads, “¡Long live the Family! …But far away.” This gave me a good chuckle, and I couldn’t resist adding it, even though it’s a smidgen off-topic.

Keep them safe on a desert island

Keep them safe on a desert island

And that’s a humorous look at some popular, Mexican brands. Do you have any you find particularly amusing?


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