Marketing teams spend hundreds of hours developing the perfect approach for their consumers. Everything from the photography and language, all the way down to the product names is heavily scrutinized in order to ensure that the products sell. In addition to driving sales, these marketing teams are responsible for the forward facing image of their companies. When they fail to catch something that the general public may find offensive, it can be a serious blow for the parent company.
Nothing is more embarrassing for a company than offending its customers. This demonstrates a company’s lack of preparation for their intended market and a certain amount of tone deafness. In our current culture, where political correctness reigns supreme, such a mishap can cost a company millions of dollars and has the potential to put them out of business altogether. It is a wonder that several of these brands continue to receive the approval of the executives in charge.
While it is understandable that some of these offensive brand names slipped through the crack, others included on this list are patently offensive. Many play on stereotypes and caricatures that would get the Average Joe dismissed from their current occupation. In spite of this, many of these products remain on the shelves and are available to purchase. Even in the face of protests, some executives fail to see the harm they may be doing. Here are fifteen products that certain people may find offensive.
15. Ford Pinto
When Ford began selling the Pinto in 1971, they completely overlooked several important factors. One of those factors was that when the word pinto is translated to Portuguese, it becomes a slang term for male genitals. However, this freewheeling translation could be covered up with their marketing tagline “the little carefree car”. Aside from the Portuguese translation, Ford executives were also covering up a major defect with the Pinto’s fuel tanks, which resulted in vehicle fires during rear end collisions. The Pinto is now synonymous with unethical business practices in addition to its unfortunate translation.
14. Aunt Jemima
The Aunt Jemima “mammy” mascot has gone through many iterations and changes since it first debuted in 1889, and somehow it is just as racist as it has always been. The mascot plays off the offensive “mammy” archetype and traditionally spouted grammatically incorrect phrases to further the Deep Southern slavery stereotypes. In 2014, descendants of actresses that had portrayed Aunt Jemima over the years sued Quaker in order to collect billions in unpaid royalties, but had their lawsuit dismissed. Quaker continues to use Aunt Jemima to sell products like maple syrup.
13. Eskimo Pie
For many it may not be common knowledge that “eskimo” is a term that is offensive to people of Inuit heritage. The brand name comes from when inventor Christian Kent Nelson teamed up with chocolatier Russell Stover, who marketed the ice cream bar with an Inuit boy wearing a parka. Despite protests from American and Canadian Inuits, Cadbury continues to market the ice cream bars as Eskimo Pies.
12. Chief Wahoo
Since 1932, the Cleveland Indians have used various versions of the Chief Wahoo character as their official team logo. Over the years, the caricatures have been cleaned up and altered, but the offensive stereotype has remained, despite ongoing protests from Native American groups since the 1970s. Each year the protests continue, and still some fans attend games dressed in offensive costumes. In recent seasons, particularly since the franchise’s move to Progressive Field (ironic name?), they have favored several alternative logos.
11. Crazy Horse Malt Liquor
Crazy Horse Malt Liquor has the honor of being a doubly offensive stereotype of the Native American community. Not only does it besmirch the legacy of the great Oglala Lakota leader, but it also furthers the plague of alcoholism among Native American populations. The Brooklyn based company, Hornell Brewing, began producing the malt liquor in 1992 as part of their “Wild West” marketing campaign. This destruction of a beloved spiritual and military leader has been protested actively by the Sioux community.
10. Dirty Dick’s Crab House
The name alone is enough to make many hungry potential customers take their business elsewhere, but that hasn’t stopped Dirty Dick’s Crabhouse franchises from popping up. Using a crusty sailor as their official logo and mascot hasn’t hurt them either. Whether it is the seafood or the oh-so-clever t-shirts that keep customers coming back remains in question. In spite of this, it still isn’t surprising to see memorabilia that proudly claims “I got my crabs from Dirty Dick’s.”
9. Dick’s Sporting Goods
One of the leading sporting goods stores in North America doesn’t seem to mind that a very common term for male genitals is proudly displayed on all of their stores and official marketing. The corporate name is actually the nickname of the original franchise owner, Richard Stack. Stack established the store as a simple bait and tackle shop, but it has expanded rapidly, and now the corporation controls over 600 stores across the country.
8. Oreo Barbie
Mattel can never turn down an opportunity to cross promote their famous Barbie doll with another well known product. What should have been a match made in heaven between a child’s doll and America’s favorite cookie was an absolute disaster. Mattel released a black version of the doll causing a public uproar because they overlooked the fact that Oreo is often used to put-down black people that “act white”. So much for that attempt at product crossover synergy.
7. Mazda Laputa
Named after the flying island from Jonathan Swift’s legendary tale, Gulliver’s Travels, Mazda set out with the best intentions of creating a car that had mass appeal. Unfortunately for them, they never ran their desired name of Laputa past any native Spanish speakers. If they had, they would have quickly realized that the name translates to “the whore”, which probably isn’t something they would have wanted associated with their company. The model enjoyed a seven-year production run before it was ended in 2006.
6. Mitsubishi Pajero
Another case of an unfortunate translation for a car manufacturer, Mitsubishi set out with the best of intentions when it debuted the Pajero in 1982. They happened to miss a crucial Spanish translation of their SUV’s name, which means “wanker”. Thankfully, Mitsubishi caught onto their error and have marketed the SUV as the Montero and Shogun depending on their market. While it is no longer sold in America, the Pajero is still sold in countries around the world.
Founded in Mexico in 1945, Bimbo has grown into North America’s largest baking conglomerate and boasts profits of over $14 billion. However, their chosen company name also happens to be a derogatory term for an unintelligent female that has been in use well before the company was founded. Bimbo attempts to make up for it by making strange commercials with their undeniably creepy mascot, the Bimbo Bear. They are also a prominent sponsor of soccer clubs including the MLS franchise the Philadelphia Union.
4. Cherikee Red
The ultra-sweet cherry soda, Cherikee Red can most commonly be found in Pennsylvania and Ohio, hundreds of miles away from the traditional Cherokee homeland of the Southeastern United States. In addition to misspelling the name of the Native American tribe, the label also features a Native American in full headdress. The worst part of this terrible cultural appropriation is that Cherokees never even adopted the plains style headdress.
3. i.Beat Blaxx
When the marketing team at TrekStor created the advertising copy for their MP3 player the i.Beat Blaxx, they must never have even said the name out loud. If they had, they would have immediately stumbled onto the openly offensive name they had created. After the device debuted in 2007, it immediately received backlash from the general public, which forced the company to do some quick thinking. Thankfully, they changed the name to the TrekStor blaxx, which still wasn’t enough to save this ultimately doomed consumer electronic.
Dairy Queen introduced their new line of blended frozen drinks to compete with the Dunkin Donuts “Coolatta”. However, when they were coming up with names for their milk based drinks, they thought a cow pun would be a good idea. What they failed to recognize was that it sounds an awful lot like derogatory term “mulatto”. While much of the general public stopped using the offensive term decades ago, Dairy Queen continues to soldier on, hawking their drinks at locations across the country.
1. Washington Redskins
If Trey Parker and Matt Stone dedicate an entire episode of South Park to how offensive your brand is, your brand is undeniably offensive. Amazingly, in spite of mass protests and a federal judge ruling in favor of the cancellation of the Washington Redskins trademark, team owner and FedEx CEO Dan Snyder stands by his patently offensive team name. Despite this legal ruling, the Washington professional football team nickname stands and continues to sully the politically correct nature of the National Football League. Public support for a new name continues to increase, meaning a name change may be coming in the near future.