February 8, 2012

The Tao of Brand Naming

As Western brands become increasingly ubiquitous in China, the business of translating foreign product names into Chinese has been elevated to the level of science.

Corporations looking to introduce a new brand to the Chinese market must contend with business, linguistic, market, and cultural factors.  Big brands like Coca-Cola and Tide employ consultants, analysis, and complex computer programs to choose names that are not only pleasing to the Chinese ear, but also to the Chinese heart and mind as well.

For example, Coke’s Chinese moniker (Ke Ko Ke Le) is not only phonetically similar to the English name, it literally translates into “Tasty fun,” capturing the essence of the global brand in a way that’s appealing and understandable to Chinese consumers.

There’s no one size fits all formula for choosing an international brand name, but it’s key to note that:

  • Naming can be crucial in defining the core brand for a new audience — OR can be an opportunity to redefine it
  • Simple name translation isn’t enough; like domestic needs, alliteration, conveying an emotional high-ground, and more than one meaning, all will help with the impact
  • Cultural sensitivity can make or break a brand — for example, Microsoft’s Bing engine was renamed in China since “bing” connotes disease and virus in their language

As Chinese consumers become increasingly brand savvy, a well chosen name is a strategic move in capturing market share and long-term loyalty.

In the global marketplace, a brand by any other name is… well, profitable.