What may sound smart, might not actually be — at least in China
The first thing brands need to understand about local branding is that, the language is vast. Many terms that while might seem harmless, could actually harbour various negative connotations. Djurovic from Labbrand (Leading China brand consultancy) says: “There are certainly some basic criteria for creating a good Chinese name, such as whether it is memorable, conveys the brand’s story, and has no negative meaning in Mandarin and major dialects.”
- Chanel or 香奈儿 (Xiang Nai Er) in Chinese is a good example of what a good Chinese name is. 香 (Xiang) means “scented and aromatic” in Chinese; 奈 (Nai) is a close approximation of a phonetic sound to the original pronunciation of Chanel; the last character 儿 (Er) does not have explicit meaning, but usually implies a soft and feminine tone in the Chinese language.
- These characters express the brand as an elegant and feminine high-end brand that only produces the very highest quality goods for female consumers, while maintaining a respectful use and showing of understanding of the Chinese language
- Houdart from Creative Capital says: “Naming is important but it is not everything. A brand’s name becomes more acceptable when its overall image among consumers becomes positive.” For example, although Apple was not perceived as a conventional name for a tech company in the beginning, but now it has become an icon.
Legal risks in the form of infringement
With all the hardships involved with settling on a name that not just coincides with the brand’s image but also doesn’t insult the local community, wouldn’t it be easier and more efficient for brands just to choose not to have a Chinese name?
- Unfortunately not. Without an official Chinese name, luxury brands are vulnerable to intellectual property infringement. Not only that but it is not new in China for there to be low-quality knockoff goods sold by entities that steal the names of more well-regarded brands.
- To protect from these risks, creating an official Chinese name and registering it as a trademark with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce is important.
“From a legal perspective, having a Chinese name is necessary for luxury brands to do businesses in China,” said Vladimir Djurovic, CEO of Labbrand, a leading branding and naming consultancy in China. “And the bigger the brands’ Chinese market has become, the more important it is for them to have a Chinese name.”
The sooner, the better
Legal issues aside, having an official Chinese name for your brand is also important for your consumers themselves. Chinese consumers purchase products from not just domestically, but also in Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas. As such, they are very likely to know and discuss brands coming into the country.
- Without a Chinese name for others to identify you by, it becomes difficult to establish these dots and to be able to make the most out of these consumers.
- On the other hand, a strategically designed Chinese name allows brands to guide the conversation on social media, and raise brand knowledge among their Chinese audience beforehand.
- A risk to this that Labbrand has stated is that, without an official Chinese name it is likely for the consumers to create a name themselves, and once the name created by others is widely accepted, it would be extremely difficult for the brand to establish a new identity.
If you enjoyed reading this and would like to read more Marketing related content, feel free to take a look at our Chinese Marketing Case Studies Library!