In recent years, Chinese brands are stepping abroad with an increasingly confident attitude. In the meantime, Chinese brands targeting local consumers are also going through subtle changes in positioning as well. These changes can be reflected in brand names. From Haier, HUAWEI to Bilibili, ByteDance, there is clearly an evolution in the alphabetic name style of Chinese brands.
How should a Chinese brand create a good alphabetic name? What is the relationship between the brands’ alphabetic and Chinese names? Let’s check it out.
NAMING TECHNIQUE & STYLE
Overall, Chinese brands’ alphabetic names nowadays tend to be more distinctive, dynamic, or impactful than ever before; the naming approach is also more diversified:
Daily Expression Name:
Brand name using daily language (including greetings) makes it easier to resonate with the audience and conveys an easy-going brand attitude. For example:
HEYTEA (new tea beverage), Sober Hi (beverage station), Hellobike (bicycle-sharing), HUGGAH (oral care), etc. HUGGAH uses onomatopoeia which is extremely colloquial; even there’re two hidden mouths in its Chinese name 呼嘎 ([hū gā] exhale/quack), clearly pointing out the brand’s major business offering of oral care.
Clap your hands, stomping your feet, let’s swing together! In addition to our dance leader ByteDance and beat master Tik Tok, let's take a look at the other active members in the beat group:
The smart use of repetitive words makes the name unique and cute. BOBORE (personal care) and LELECHA (new tea beverage) use repetitive syllables to bring a lively and vibrant feel. PatPat pictures mother patting baby, revealing brand’s maternal & infant category. Other similar cases are tap4fun (one of the first Chinese mobile game companies going overseas), dido (wearable smart device), Wholly Moly! (new health food), etc.
The showcased names all apply repeated syllables or a combination of short pronunciations to make the names read rhythmic. Such names are extremely readable and can easily stick in your mind.
In fact, Chinese characters are ideographic originally that use shape to express meaning. While for English and Latin languages, people can understand the meaning of words by only listening. Pronunciation is undoubtedly important for alphabetic names. A rhythmic name carries a great advantage to leave a deep impression in consumers’ minds.
Let's step from concert to the cinema, and discover how the alphabetic names of Chinese brands use visual expressions to communicate with the audience:
- OFO (used to be a famous bicycle-sharing brand) is formed with 3 letters that look exactly like the shape of a bicycle. A very smart way to build a consistent brand identity across verbal and visual.
- OPPO (telecom) looks very smooth with the roundness, together with the symmetry, this name appears very harmonious.
- VIVO (telecom) combines both sharp point (V) and circle shape, indicating innovative technology and beauty of the design. IQOO, 4 letters containing I and O, well inherited the blood of VIVO; "OO" visually also implies the brand's positioning towards millennials (also called post 00 in Chinese).
Unique concept names:
Twists or gags in novels and other artworks often make people confused in the beginning. Once they get the intention behind it, they would shout out loud to it. Unexpected and unconventional concepts cases are not rare at all in alphabetic names of Chinese brands:
- The stylized makeup brand Girlcult indicates the brand characteristic of "non-mainstream beauty.
- Algebraist (coffee): What? Those who fail algebra can't make good coffee? You get it: In Algebraist, the ratio of every ingredient is extremely precise to ensure accurate taste control of each cup of coffee.
- %Arabica (coffee) gives you the promise of "100% adoption of Arabica beans";
- Another symbolic one: Bluedash (wine) shows the unlimited possibilities of product collocation through the space created with the dash.
- Starfield, open up the future "star" field of plant meat.
- Particle Fever (high-end sports), with the collision between technology and passion, what kind of sparks will there be?
The names above jump out of conventional logic in terms of word expression and concept combination. Such eye-catching and interesting alphabetic names are especially numerous among FMCG, fast fashion, local trendy stores, and Gen-Z brands. In fact, the language habits and characteristics of each individual are the integration of multilingualism and multi-information cognition. In the Age of the Internet, this phenomenon is sharply amplified, and it is the wave top of language evolution torrent.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ALPHABETIC AND CHINESE NAMES
The relationship between Chinese and Alphabetic names is nothing more than the connection of pronunciation/meaning, as can be seen in the table below.
It is not difficult to perceive that purely transliterated names like Galanz, Meters/Bonwe are no longer common in today's Chinese brands. Once, the biggest feature of this type of name was that it helped to shape a unified international brand image (Western-style used to mean high-end, fashionable, and worthy of following to almost all Chinese). In the past two decades, with too many local brands’ imitations, this method has long been considered unoriginal and gradually faded out of people's sight.
On the other hand, "literal translation" or "transliteration + meaning" approaches are more widely used in brand bilingual naming today. The name style tends to be symbolic and unconstraint such as IM 智己 (electric car, [zhì jǐ] intelligent/self); Little Touch 哩头 ([lǐ tóu] auxiliary word/head). Even the names using "transliteration" are visibly different from pure transliteration in the traditional sense, such as SHEIN 希音 (fast fashion, [xī yīn] hope/sound). This is inseparable from factors such as people's lifestyle, language habits, and the development of Internet language, etc., and belongs to the cultural projection of the current era in which we live.
Chinese pinyin has been put into use since the 1950s. From Haier 海尔, HUAWEI 华为 to TouTiao 今日头条, Pidan, LELECHA 乐乐茶, pinyin is still used by some Chinese brands as alphabetic names, but the proportion has slightly decreased in recent years. Today, many names in pinyin form tend to be more international and are more aligned with the pronunciation habits of foreign languages.
Does a Chinese brand need an alphabetic name and how to create a good one? Here we summarize some key factors to help answer this question:
- For brands targeting overseas markets, a concise and catchy alphabetic name that conforms to the pronunciation habits of foreign languages will definitely increase the brand's communication power on the global stage.
- For brands targeting the Chinese market, a unique and interesting alphabetic name will help open up dialogues with certain target audiences such as Gen-Z. It is important that the alphabetic name reflects well the brand image and value and is consistent with the Chinese name.
- In addition, due to the increasingly crowded trademark environment in China, it is extremely challenging to have a Chinese brand name that is easy to remember and can pass the trademark registration examination. Alphabetic names are relatively easy to pass the trademark registration. This might be the fundamental reason why some local brands only have alphabetic names or have it first, and then follow up to launch their Chinese names.
We have seen the great evolution of the alphabetic names of Chinese brands. In the next decade, what new changes can happen? Let’s witness together.