Are you planning to enter the Chinese market? Pay attenction to your brand’s name
Entering a new market entails getting to know local law and understanding the country’s mentality. An important factor that creates the brand awareness is its name, and that is what we would like to write about today – in the context of China.
A well-chosen name can make your company more trustworthy, and as we know, directly affects sales of a specific product of that company. It is paramount that the character and particular requirements of the Chinese market is taken into account. Chilean distributors got to know about that the hard way; they asked the Mazda company to change the name of their Laputa minivan, since puta means prostitute in Spanish. Apart from that obvious mistake, the new name does not seem to convey the meaning of the new product as intended.
Hardships when entering the Chinese include the fact that the Chinese alphabet consists of thousands of various signs, and depending on the region, they are pronounced differently. Let us take Coca Cola for example – the Chinese pronunciation of the company’s name sounds like Chinese bite the wax tadpole or female horse stuffed with wax. Funnily enough, those were the slogans used by Chinese shop owners to advertise the Coca Cola products.
To prevent such situations, Harvard Business Review has researched more that thousand international companies, and based on the naming policies they have come up with four types of attitudes to the matter. The best solution is for the name of the company to be reflected by both phonetics and semantics. Unfortunately, only 22% of all companies checked managed to get both of the aspects right.
Four possible attitudes:
1. No adjustment (11% surveyed)
The company’s name reflects neither the meaning nor the pronunciation. In this case, the advantages are the following: the brand gets a unique character and does not create phonetic barriers. The drawback is that because of that, the company may be treated as a single-country enterprise. For example, the Chinese branch of Pizza Hut has a different tone and changed meaning – “Guarantee that attracts customers.”
2. Phonetically-adjusted (43% surveyed)
The original name stays like the original, but it does not make any sense. In case of China, the name will only work when it spreads by the word of mouth. Example: Sony sounds like Sou Nì, which means roaming nun/roaming priest.
3. Adjustment of the meaning (24% surveyed)
The name corresponds to the original, but sounds differently. Example: General Motors in Chinese means engine.
4. Dual adjustment (22% surveyed)
Ideal solution giving the highest changes of development and proper embrace of the product, even though it is the hardest to implement. Example: Nike sounds like Naai Kee, which means to overcome fatigue.