Thursday, November 17, 2011

The art of branding in China

In China, people place high importance on brand names, as they are deeply superstitious and have a strong belief in feng shui. Popular brands in china include the fizzy drink ‘Tasty fun’(aka Coca-Cola), the fashionable running shoes ‘Enduring & Perserving’ (aka Nike) and the flash car ‘Precious horse’ (aka BMW).

China is a massive market for corporations with sales of consumer goods increasing by 13% per year and luxury goods 25% a year. When a corporation decides to introduce their brand in China, it is crucial that they get their ‘Chinese brand name’ correct – as it can make or break the brand.

When it comes to selecting the right brand name, a team of consultants carefully use computer programs and linguistic analysis to ensure that the Chinese brand name has a positive connotation in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

Some of the best Chinese brand names actually sound like the English equivalent. There is a lot of artistry in translating and selecting the right brand name for the Chinese market. Here are some examples:

Coca-Cola’s Chinese name is ‘Kekoukele’, which means - tasty fun.

Tide detergent or ‘Taizie’ means – gets rid of dirt

Reeboks or ‘Rui Bu’ means ‘quick steps’ (Isn’t that clever?)

Colgate or ‘Gao lu jie’ means ‘revealing superior cleanliness’

It’s quite brilliant that they were able to come up with clever Chinese homonyms for the original English name. Often, the phonetic Chinese translation can lead to a brand name with no meaning in Chinese (therefore the brand would be identified foreign) or it can have a negative meaning.

Therefore corporations prefer to choose a Chinese name that suggests power, status and good luck. But, if the name could also sound like the English equivalent – that would be an added bonus.

Common Chinese words that are found in many brands include: le ‘happy’, li ‘power’, ‘ma’ horse and fu ‘lucky’.

Microsoft had a bit of trouble with selecting their Chinese name for search engine ‘Bing’. Bing in Chinese means disease, defect and virus. With consultation, they chose the name ‘Bi ying’ which means ‘responds without fail’.

Another interesting story is Peugeot, they decided to choose a homonym name ‘Biao Zhi’ which sounds similar to the Chinese slang for ‘prostitute’ (biaozi). The automobile brand has inspired many dirty jokes as you can imagine.

If you are entering the Chinese market, carefully select your Chinese brand name as it will impact on your business.

Reference: new York times

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