Origins: When Coca-Cola first entered the Chinese market in 1928, it had no official representation of its name in Mandarin. It needed to find four Chinese characters whose pronunciations approximated the sounds
Coca-Cola had to avoid using many of the 200 symbols available for forming
This representation literally translated as "to allow the mouth to be able to rejoice," but it acceptably represented the concept of "something palatable from which one receives pleasure." It was the real thing, with no wax tadpoles or female horses, and
Both this advertising tale and the apocryphal story about the Chevy Nova's sales failure in Spanish-speaking countries are often cited as examples of the hubris of American corporations who fail to take cultural differences (specifically language use) into account when marketing their products in foreign countries. Both examples are untrue, and in this case the claim is especially egregious, as few companies can match
Last updated: 19 May 2011
Allman, N.F. "Transliteration of 'Coca-Cola' Trade-Mark to Chinese Characters." Coca-Cola Overseas. June 1957 (pp. 10-11). Ricks, David A. Blunders in International Business. Cambridge, U.S.A.: Blackwell, 1993. ISBN 1-55786-414-4 (pp. 34-35).