Apparently no one at Hyundai knew about, or remembered, a Broadway play of two or three decades ago, named Equus. And furthermore, many of the individuals in the US who might be in the upscale Hyundai demographic probably do.
The play was about a young man who was in love with a horse, and it also involved one of the two getting blinded. I think it was the that the horse was blinded by the man out of jealousy or something, but I don’t really care enough to look up the details.
But when Vance Packard could conclude that one of the reasons for the Edsel’s failure was that the through the bumper tail pipes, which caused brown deposits around the holes themselves, aroused subconscious or subliminal homosexual associations that the average consumer reacted negatively to, then one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a fifty-something car shopper, when the see a car named Equus is going to make the association with that highly-praised, but highly-controversial, play.
And even if a potential buyer had liked the play, they would almost certainly have done a quick mental calculus to figure that cocktail party chitchat might center around their driving an Equus, a car named the same as that play.
People also used to joke about what could be added to the Edsel’s grill to make it look more like something that men might like, but I will leave it to your imagination.
Suffice it to say that an association with anything sexual, especially if it is considered to be out of what much of society considers normal, is likely to be a non-starter in the showroom.
And people in the prime demographic were old enough when the play was in vogue, to have read and heard about it, and it was indeed very controversial at the time.
“Uh, an Equus? Maybe I’d be better off just getting an MKS, or whatever. I like that name better, for some reason.”
Those Lincoln names had little or no inherent association with anything in the average buyer’s mind, but as bad as that was for marketing, having a negative or controversial association can only be worse.
This is also reminiscent of another car naming blunder, though the Equus problem doesn’t arise out of a language difference.
But the Chevy Nova had problems in Latin America, because
“No va!” means “It doesn’t run” or ‘it doesn’t go”.
Still an easier thing to fix I think, than having people think of violent blinding associated with man-animal eroticism, which was widely seen as a metaphor for other fantasies the male lead might have been harboring.
Seen in that light, naming the car after a commercial pop band of a few decades ago doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. And at least they didn’t name it the Yes by Hyundai Motors instead. Nor did they name it the Exodus. But Equus should have been noticed and kicked off of the list of candidate names in the first phase of product design and marketing concept.