Most international brands entering China face the critical challenge of creating a good Chinese name. Chinese consumers prefer to call a brand in Chinese. They will even give a Chinese nickname if a brand doesn’t have one, e.g. Galeries Lafayette – 老佛爷 [lǎo fó yé] “old Buddha”. It is increasingly difficult to create a good Chinese name that simultaneously:
- Fit with the original name phonetically and semantically.
- Reflect well on the brand localization from both business and culture angles.
- Read well in all important dialects. China owns the most complex dialect system worldwide, which includes hundreds of local varieties. Many dialects are spoken differently from Mandarin such as Cantonese or Minnanhua.
- Is registrable as a trademark in CTMO (China Trademark Office), the world’s largest and most complex trademark database comprised of more than 40 million effective trademarks by 2022.
How is Chinese Naming for international brands different from Brand Naming?
Brand naming is to create a name from scratch. Chinese naming for international brands is to craft a name that balances the established brand positioning and the Chinese market & consumers. This means the Chinese name might shift to a new brand positioning.
A good example is the Chinese name of Linkedin: 领英®[ lǐng yīng] meaning “leading elite” which shifts from the original brand positioning “connecting everyone”.
In an extensive consumer test, 领英®[ lǐng yīng] stays as the top choice compared to another name 联应 [lián yìng] “link and respond” which is consistent with the original name Linkedin and the brand positioning. The insight is that the Chinese career circle aspires to achieve a higher level of work and life through continuous hardworking. Therefore, 领英®[ lǐng yīng] “leading elite” is much more attractive than the original positioning “connecting everyone” in the Chinese market.
How can it help with your enterprise transformation and why is it important to your company?
Chinese name is one of the most valuable assets of international brands. It plays a crucial role in brand localization as it is the primary medium to build brand awareness and bond with Chinese consumers. From being international to being locally relevant, your brand needs a good Chinese name to thrive in the Chinese market.