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China Marketing

What's in a name

It doesn't matter if you're selling running shoes, the glue that holds running shoes together, the laces for said shoes or the boxes they come in.

You have to get your name and China branding right for the Chinese market.

English readers may snigger at this brand name...

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This is one of the hurdles all companies face when setting up in the Middle Kingdom. Names that have become household words in the West need rethinking before being launched in the Chinese market.

Mandarin is an incredibly complex language. Written down, the thousands of elegent characters all have significance. Throw in the four tones used by speakers, and you have the potential to do something amazing - or make a catastrophic error.

Names don't have to be a direct translation, or necessarily exactly the same as the Western versions.

Reebok, or Rui bu, as it is pronounced in Mandarin means “quick steps”, while Nike (Nai ke) translates as "enduring and persevering". A long way from the winged goddess of antiquity, but containing a strong message about the brand's values all the same.

Many Westen brands have quite similar Chinese names, because certain words carry very positive connotations, such as “le” and “xi,” or happy; “li" meaning “strength” or “power”; “ma” or horse; and “fu,” translated as “lucky” or “auspicious.”

Whatever you choose for your Chinese brand name, test it out first. Run focus groups in different parts of the country, as regional accents may skew the meaning. Peugeot (Biao zhi) sounds enough like the Chinese slang for “prostitute” (biaozi) that in southern China, where the pronunciations are especially close, the company is occassionally the butt of a dirty joke...

 

 

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Director at GE Healthcare

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