It probably seemed a good idea at the time. But Russia's attempt to create a joint gas venture with Nigeria is set to become one of the classic branding disasters of all time ‑ after the new company was named Nigaz.
The venture was agreed last week during a four-day trip by Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev to Africa. The deal between Russia's Gazprom and Nigeria's state oil company was supposed to show off the Kremlin's growing interest in Africa's energy reserves.
Instead, the venture is now likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons ‑ as a memorable PR blunder, worse than Chevrolet's Nova, which failed to sell in South America because it translates as "doesn't go" in Spanish.
Alert users of Twitter first highlighted the unfortunate English connotations of Nigaz, which appears to have eluded Medevedev's Russian-speaking delegation.
Writing on Monday, shunty 75 observed: "Nigaz is the name for the new Gazprom Nigeria venture. They need a new PR outfit. NO WAY!! Haha!!" Other twitterers also derided the name.
An article in Brand Republic pointed out the obvious: that the name has "rather different connotations" for English-speakers.
It recalled other international branding mishaps including the Ford Pinto ‑ which in Brazil means small penis ‑ and the Pepsi slogan "come alive with the Pepsi generation". In Taiwan this rousing motto translated as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead".
It is unclear why nobody alerted Medevedev to the blunder. But one possible explanation is that the offending word is still widely used in Russia, and was even famously employed by the poet Vladimir Mayokovsky in the 1920s.
The new company Nigaz plans to invest at least $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in oil and gas exploration and aims to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations across Nigeria.
"We have a chance to become major energy partners," Medvedev declared last week following a meeting with Nigeria's presient Umaru Yar'Adua in the capital Abuja.
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