If you live on the Internet like I do, you’ve no doubt seen the awesome and sloppy marketing move on the part of Fukushima Industries. In September 2013, the British broadsheet newspaper, The Independent, reported that Fukushima’s new mascot was a real happy egg with wings named Fukuppy. This made the Internet very joyous indeed, as we here in cyberspace got to giggle at the unfortunate name choice. Although the Japanese pronunciation is pretty far from what it is in English (y’all Fukuppy’d!), the name got some silly press and has since been changed.
The Western version of the brand name has been removed due to this giggly uproar, as well as unfortunate associations with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (if you recall, Internet, that’s the plant that had a meltdown on the scale of Chernobyl in 2011). Calling their cartoon egg creature Fukuppy and sporting the name Fukushima could create the phrase “they fucked up” not so latent in the consumer’s mind, and remind them of the nuclear plant tragedy. And Fukushima Industries makes refrigerators, which are not dangerous in the nuclear sense one bit. All in all, it was a not so happy accident of branding, but one that proved the unsettling power of symbolism in marketing.
Other errors have occurred in marketing, just like in this instance. Reading the comments of the Independent article (because what’s more juicy than a comments section?), I discovered that Mazda made a car called LaPuta (that’s “bitch” in Spanish) and Chevrolet named one of their vehicles the Nova (“doesn’t go” in Spanish). These are just two examples of what must be a nice load of branding mistakes. But are these really errors, or just decent enough names that don’t translate well?
The Fukuppy incident reveals that it’s hard to come up with something in one language that won’t offend (or just be ridiculous) in another. I’m pretty sure that Fukushima didn’t want to raise associations with the power plant many miles away – that egg isn’t supposed to be mutated from the fallout. The fear a company must have, their marketing media under the scrutiny of the populace, not to mention the nightmare of Internet social media. In this case, I think the error isn’t so grave; it’s actually good press (because any press is good). Now we’re talking about a refrigerator company a whole lot, even if the meltdown is also on our minds. Would we talk about this sort of company otherwise?
So yeah, the name is now changed for Western audiences, but those Westerners, us included, Internet monsters, are now very aware of the company. For a good week we had that egg in our brain viewers, and even though it’s flapping its little wings and flying away, we’ll always have fridges on the mind at least enough to think Fukushima when installation of said device is warranted in the home.