LABREPORT | JUN, 2013 In the realm of brand identity, a Chinese brand name serves as a crucial initial element. Some brands effortlessly leverage significant elements like the founder’s name or address numbers, achieving remarkable success and widespread acceptance. However, others undergo intricate processes, yet face questionable results or public criticism. What makes a brand name memorable and effectively communicated? Are there specific rules or creative skills to employ? This article delves into the exploration, offering insights on crafting memorable and well-communicated Chinese brand names. Uncover the strategies that can elevate your brand’s identity and resonate effectively with the Chinese audience.
Commonality vs. Originality
A common name either reflects the common functionality of the product or follows the general naming principles of the industry. Since consumers already understand certain industry knowledge, it is easy for them to remember a related name. Take 汰渍 [tài zì] (Tide) as an example: as a laundry detergent brand, the Chinese name “汰渍” expresses the common function of “washing off the stain” known by every consumer. Therefore, this name helps the detergent brand to be remembered easily through simple logic. What is detergent for? To wash off dirt. And how to say “washing off the dirt”? “Tai Zi.”
Brand names that reflect commonality: 汰渍 [tài zì] (Tide)
Another example is 帮宝适 [bāng bǎo shì] (Pampers). As a leading diaper brand, Pamper’s Chinese name “帮宝适” can be interpreted as “to help the baby feel comfortable”, which is a common but key attribute for brands in this industry. For the target customers, the mums, the most important quality of diapers is to make their babies feel comfortable. The name “帮宝适” is straight to the point.
Although certain conventional names perform well at memorability, there lie potential risks. If most brands in the same category adopt this tactic, their perspective brand name will become undifferentiated. Also, without thorough consideration and analysis when selecting the characters and phrases, the brand name can become too generic. Johnson & Johnson’s colored contact lenses brand 美瞳 [měi tóng] (directly translated as “beautiful pupils”) happens to run into such an unfortunate situation. In China, ”Mei Tong” is a registered trademark under Johnson & Johnson’s ACUVUE brand. As the first color contact lenses brand in the country, the product name “Mei Tong” defines the product function and key attributes: it makes your eyes look more beautiful. After 美瞳’s quick success, the name were used by many competitors and gradually became a generic category name for colored contact lenses. Many companies in this industry produce bad quality products, and now, the name “mei tong” has a certain negative association to being unhealthy for the eyes.
Brand names that reflect commonality: 美瞳 [měi tóng]
Therefore, when creating a name that has a conventional structure and meaning, a brand should try to choose an aspect of the industry to show the commonality and use creative phrasing to differentiate the feature and prevent the brand from generalization.
An original brand name usually possesses strong distinctiveness that makes an impression. It may seem to be unreasonable at first, but one may savor the thoughtful meanings later.
What is the connection between computer and fruit? Ask Apple. There are several versions of how the brand created the name and logo. Some say that the logo of a “bitten apple” is in memory of Alan Mathison Turing, the father of computer, as he committed suicide with a poisoned apple. Another explanation is that Apple’s first logo was a picture of Newton reading under an apple tree. Later on, for the sake of communication, the logo was simplified into an apple with a bite on one side (“bite” is phonetically similar to “byte”, a basic computer operational unit).
Brand names that reflect originality: Apple
No matter where it came from, the name Apple can be seen as an example of creative naming. It is simple and natural, but carries rich connotations. People are curious about why it is the name of a computer brand. Then, after giving it some thoughts, they would realize that the combination of brand name (Apple), logo (a bitten apple) and the whole brand identity system (minimalist design) has rich meanings: a unique way of thinking, and simplified user experience realized by complicated and vigorous research & development process. It is safe to say that Apple’s branding campaign is extremely successful. It instilled brand value into a brand name that has no industry relevance. Apple makes it natural to call something white as black, or in this case, call computer as “apple.”
What’s interesting is that Apple started the trend of “fruitalization” in the electric and telecom industry. Following Apple, there came several big “fruit” brands, such as Orange (French telecom brand) and Blackberry (cell phone brand). However compared to Apple who set the milestone, the surprise element of the followers is greatly reduced.
A brand name will be recited many times. Therefore a name that is easy to pronounce and sounds nice has a given advantage in being memorable.
An effective approach is sound repetition. This method is greatly used in the Food & Beverage industry, for instance 娃哈哈 [wá hā hā] (Wahaha), 趣多多 [qù duō duō] (Chips Ahoy), 奥利奥 [ào lì ào] (Oreo) and 可口可乐 [kě kǒu kě lè] (Coca-cola). Among these names, “娃哈哈” (Wahaha) and “趣多多” (Chips Ahoy) repeat the last two characters, which is a common practice in the Chinese spoken language, especially when talking to children, for example “小兔兔”[xiǎo tù tu] (little bunny) and “睡觉觉” [shuì jiào jiao] (to go beddy-byes).
Brand names that use sound repetition: Oreo
Sound repetition such as “奥利奥” (Oreo) uses the same character in the beginning and end of the name, which is also often seen in spoken language, such as 试一试 [shì yí shì] (have a try) and 有没有 [yǒu méi yǒu] (is there… or not).
The name “可口可乐” (Coca-cola) adopts intervallic sound repetition and symmetrical structure in the same time. The character “可” is repeated twice. The symmetrical structure, which can be traced back to ancient China, is influenced by Chinese traditional poetry, where neat antithesis is the most important principle.
Brand names that use sound repetition: Coca-cola
Opting for names with sound repetition contributes to heightened memorability, thanks to their rhythmic quality and simple, repetitive syllables. These names seamlessly integrate into daily language habits, offering a relaxing and cheerful association. While this naming approach is well-suited for certain industries, particularly in the Food & Beverage sector, its universal applicability is limited. For luxury brands, in particular, this type of naming may clash with the desired brand identity, requiring a more nuanced and tailored approach to resonate effectively with the target audience. Explore the nuances of crafting a Chinese brand name that aligns with your industry, brand identity, and market positioning.
Fixed Phrases/ Terms
When a name is adopted from a fixed Chinese phrase or term, it can be very memorable. Several international brands adopt this naming method, such as 联想 [lián xiǎng] (Lenovo, Chinese name means “to associate”), 通用 [tōng yòng] (General Electric, Chinese name means “commonly used”), and 大众 [dà zhòng] (Volkswagen, Chinese name and original name in German both mean “the public”). When choosing a certain fixed phrase as a brand name, most brands reflect on their brand values. As a computer brand, 联想 [lián xiǎng] (Lenovo)conveys the sense of “wisdom and innovation”. 通用 [tōng yòng] (GE), a comprehensive technology and services brand, greatly translates inclusiveness and adaptability. 大众 [dà zhòng] (Volkswagen), a “national” automotive brand, gives an approachable and accessible image.
However, if we take a closer look, most of these brands that adopt fixed phrases/terms naming usually have a profound history. On one hand, suitable fixed phrases/terms for brands are limited in quantity, and most of them have already been registered. On the other hand, since the meaning of fixed phrases/terms is conventionalized, it would be relatively hard to convey other differentiating brand attributes.
Brand names that use the essence of fixed phrases: Volkswagen, BOOKING.COM
By keeping the essence of a fixed term with thoughtful adjustment in wording, we can also create a memorable and innovative name. One of the fine examples is the Chinese brand name of the renowned online hotel booking website booking.com. Its Chinese name 缤客 [bīn kè] (which means a great variety for guests) is a homophone of 宾客 [bīn kè] (which means guests). While the original fixed term “宾客” is too common and lacks an emotional touch, by adopting 缤 [bīn] instead of 宾 [bīn], the name not only possesses the advantage of a fixed phrase/term, but also brings deeper connotation to the brand. Originally, “缤” [bīn] means “diverse”, and thus can be extended to the diverse hotel choices around the world, as well as meeting different needs of every guests.
In the landscape of escalating business competition, the quest for brands to distinguish themselves and endure is increasingly challenging. Among various touch-points, brand naming stands out as a formidable creative mission. Crafting a memorable Chinese brand name requires a delicate balance of artistry, cultural relevance, logic, and commercial viability. Before settling on a final name, a deep understanding of the brand’s core value and desired identity is essential. This strategic approach ensures that the brand name is endowed with the strongest interpretation and a memorable connotation, positioning it for lasting impact in the competitive market. Explore the key elements that contribute to the creation of impactful Chinese brand names, aligning with your brand’s identity and resonating effectively with the target audience.
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