The Power of the Chinese Brand Name


brands china

A company who looks to make it in China, will find that they may have to make some changes to their brand image in order to appeal to Chinese consumers. Many well-known brands that are huge in the United States, who move to the Chinese market change their names. Consider these examples:

  • Starbucks is Starry Hope in China
  • Samsung is Triple Stars
  • BMW is Treasured Horse
  • Budweiser is Hundred Prestige

All of these brands are big in the US, and in order to become even bigger in China, these companies knew that there is more than just a name when looking at a brand. You have to display an image to the Chinese consumer they can connect with. And it can be even more difficult for brands to conquer the Chinese naming of their product.

According to Tait Lawton, the founder of Nanjing Marketing Group:

“The wrong name will just give the wrong impression. [Foreign companies] need to understand there is meaning in Chinese characters – – it’s not like English where you can take letters and mash them together to make different sounds.”

Lawton pointed out that many companies who fail to transfer their name to a Chinese name when entering into the market do fail. For example, BestBuy used an almost exact translation of their US name. The company never took off. There were other reasons why the company did not take off, but this is one that many professionals say could have been avoided.

Read more about BestBuy and their failure in China, here

For companies who are looking to make it in the Chinese market, then they must focus on what their brand says about them. Companies will want to come up with a name that is not only associated with the product, but also in the niche that they are trying to break into. For example:

  • In China, Nike is referred to as “nai ke”. This name is translating to endurance and perseverance, both of which are associated with Nike
  • Rebook utilizes “Rui bu” which translates to fast steps
  • Coca-Cola utilizes “kekou kele”, which translates to delicious fun

These three companies know that in order to reach Chinese consumers they must be communicating with them on their level. This includes branding their products in a way that is going to appeal to Chinese consumers. Through doing so, you increase your chances of succeeding on the market. According to Vladimir Djurovic, the CEO of Labbrand:

“There is no absolute rule…the right name will always depend on a couple of things.”

For companies who are trying to make it in China, it may be advisable to start thinking about their name way before heading into the market. Most companies take up to a year to find their Chinese name that is going to be associated with their brand image.

About Author

Social Brand Watch (SBW) is a collection of experts in digital, mobile and social media in China. SBW was created to complement Resonance's China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly report focusing on modern marketing methods of the world's top brands in China.

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