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How do you pronounce Temu? Tee-moo or Teh-moo?

How is ‘Temu’ pronounced, and how can it sell things for so cheap?
How is ‘Temu’ pronounced, and how can it sell things for so cheap? 01:51

CHICAGO (CBS) – Forget the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce romance – this has been one of the hottest topics on social media since Super Bowl Sunday.

TikTokers are going wild over a new way to pronounce their favorite online shopping platform, Temu.

In a 30-second multi-million dollar ad that ran multiple times during the most watched Super Bowl ever, the name was pronounced Teh-moo by the singers. That whipped Temu fans into a frenzy.

Temu's Big Game Ad Encore TV Commercial 2024 by Temu on YouTube

The company's YouTube posting of that ad has 15 million views.

After it ran during the game, social posts immediately began talking about the surprise, with some pledging never to say Temu the new way. Those posts were also getting additional priceless eyeballs.

One TikToker's video titled "Temu said yall gonna stop pronouncing it wrong" has more than 18,000 views, 691,000 likes, and 1,500 comments.

TikTokers were still talking about the Super Bowl switcheroo more than a week after the big game, with one posting, "POV: Me 9 days later still trying to figure out how to say Temu."

How do you pronounce Temu, boss?

Just a couple of months before the Super Bowl ad surprise – even the head of Temu's parent company, PDD Holdings, was pronouncing it Tee-moo (around 7:22 of the clip below) during a third-quarter earnings conference call.

$PDD PDD Holdings Q3 2023 Earnings Conference Call by EARNMOAR on YouTube

"No one changes their name unless you do it for much bigger reasons," said Dan Azzaro, a 30-year advertising and marketing veteran who's now a professional lecturer at DePaul University.

He cites recent examples of fairly recent brand name changes for those more significant reasons.

  • In 2020, after the George Floyd murder and resulting demonstrations, Mars changed the name of Uncle Ben's Rice to Ben's Original and dropped its logo featuring a Black man. Many had criticized the name and the image as racially insensitive and stereotypical.
  •  Also, in 2020, Quaker Oats announced that Aunt Jemima would lose its Black female character icon and change its name to Pearl Milling Company. That change took effect in 2021.
  • Even a long-standing NFL team felt the impact in the aftermath of George Floyd and the country's new emphasis on diversity and cultural inclusivity. The Washington Redskins became the Washington Football Team and eventually rebranded itself as the Washington Commanders in 2022.

Azzaro said name or brand changes are often necessary. But Temu's switch during Super Bowl Sunday?

"Mispronunciation is just a stunt," he said.

Perhaps a stunt to boost Temu sales?

 Bloomberg Second Measure tracks consumer transaction data. It reported Temu's sales dipped more than 12% in December 2023 and closer to 5% in January 2024. The company's sales had skyrocketed after it advertised in the Super Bowl.

"You have to look at what you want the Super Bowl to do for you," said Azzaro.

According to Nielsen, the average audience for this year's game was close to 124 million viewers.

"It's the largest stage you're gonna see," said Azzaro. 

He added it's the only event where practically the entire country talks about the same thing simultaneously. That's why businesses like Temu spend millions on those ads.

"Super Bowl is the one place where we can get everybody to see it, talk about it, maybe even look it up."

Temu has been in the news recently for several other reasons, including data privacy concerns, first spotlighted by the BBB and reported by CBS Chicago last year. And several lawsuits and accusations it faces over data privacy and copyright infringement issues.

He believes Temu's pronunciation change, revealed during the biggest sports event of the year, was a strategic move.

"This is all about getting people diverted from the other issues."

CBS Chicago asked the company why it made the switch. In a statement, a spokesperson said:

  • "As Temu continues to expand into new markets globally, we want to ensure our brand name has a consistent and memorable presentation across different regions and languages. After careful consideration, we determined that the new pronunciation achieves this goal better."

Temu also claims imposters are pretending to be them and causing issues with data privacy and counterfeits, calling the lawsuits it faces "meritless."

  • "We categorically deny the allegations and intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these meritless lawsuits. The complaints parrot a report put out by a short-seller, calling itself Grizzly Research, which has an obvious incentive to try to drive down Temu's stock price through misinformation. The report even includes a disclaimer that its contents are "not statements of fact."
  • "The truth is that safeguarding privacy is one of Temu's core values. Our privacy practices are in line with industry standards and are transparently disclosed in our Privacy Policy. Temu also has a "permissions" section in the Temu app and website that clearly explains the device features that Temu does and does not access."
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