If you’re looking to unlock new revenue streams and take your business into a new market, there’s no more lucrative destination than China. Home to more than 1.4 billion consumers, the vast majority digitally-active citizens, it’s easy to build brand awareness and generate sales as a UK brand, provided you invest in the right Chinese digital marketing strategy.
But before you can begin promoting your products and services, you need to consider the language barrier and decide whether you want to give your company a Chinese name. That task is easier said than done: when Coca-Cola first marketed its products in China, their name translated as “Bite The Wax Tadpole”... not the most compelling for a drinks brand!
Below, we’ve put together a quick guide to choosing the right Chinese name for your brand…
Decide whether you need a Chinese name
First things first, decide whether you want to give your brand a Chinese name, or whether you are happy to enter into the market under your current brand. Nine times out of ten, we’d recommend coming up with a new brand for China, but there are a number of luxury brands entering China that are so well known, they don’t need to change their name or adapt to local tastes. Examples include Gucci and TOPSHOP, though these are few and far between.
The best way to decide whether your brand would work in China is to speak with your target market. If you’ve already built a global presence you might get away with it, but the chances are that a new name will work best. Put it this way: as a UK consumer, you’re much more likely to buy from Alibaba than you are from 阿里巴巴 even though it’s the same company.
Once you’ve decided to rebrand your company for the Chinese market, decide how far you want it to go. After conducting research into your audience and analysing competitors’ names and branding, decide whether to choose a name that has no resemblance to your UK brand, one that sounds like the UK brand but has a different meaning, one that has a close resemblance to the UK meaning but looks different, or a name that sounds and looks like the UK one. There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options, so weigh them up.
Think about words that reflect your brand
The best way to come up with a Chinese name for your UK brand is to go back to the drawing board and imagine you were starting your business from scratch. Speaking with a Chinese translator or marketing specialist, think about words that accurately reflect your brand - or reflect where you want your brand to be. Consider your value proposition, your unique selling points and the values and ethos behind your brand to create a shortlist.
In an ideal world, you want to come up with a unique name (there are more than 100 million businesses operating in China, so that will be tough!) that reflects what your business does. Take your time - your name is one of your biggest marketing assets and could make or break your venture. Get feedback and review every step of the naming and branding journey.
Make sure it sounds good
Once you’ve highlighted a few potential names, think about sound. Unless you’re fluent in Chinese, it can be tough to know how a brand mark will sound when it’s read aloud, so work with a translator to determine whether your name is easy to pronounce. For example, how will it sound when you’re recording video adverts for your company? Does the word sound good when it’s used in a conversation? If it’s awkward or a tongue-twister, it won’t work.
You should ensure that your name doesn’t have any negative or inappropriate connotations when said aloud, too. McDonald's, for example, recently changed its corporate business name in China to Jin Gong Men, which has been ridiculed by fans of the burger joint for sounding like a fertilizer brand. Luckily, McDonald’s is big enough to get away with a PR blunder like this, and the public-facing side of the company is still known as Màidāngláo (麦当劳) but that hasn’t stopped consumers from creating memes about the fast food chain.
As a small business entering the market, you need to ensure your name sounds good from the get-go - you cannot change it or revert to your UK brand very easily once you get started.
Consider the look and feel of your name
In the marketing world, appearance is everything, so you need to consider how your wordmark will look when it’s used online or in a logo. If your name is too long or contains too many similar-looking characters, you might struggle to connect with your target market.
The ‘feel’ of your name should also be considered. It’s all well and good choosing a practical name like ‘Scottish Imported Whisky Company’ - but you’re going to struggle to tell engaging stories with a name like that. A name like ‘Whiskers,’ on the other hand, adds personality to your brand and evokes an emotional response in a way a generic name does not.
Ensure it’s memorable
Finally, think about how easily your brand will be remembered. Of course, your marketing campaigns are just as important as your brand name, but if people can’t remember what you’re called, they’re not going to follow you on WeChat or search for you on Baidu. Words with a rhythm or semantic flow always score high on memorability tests, and names that sound unusual or feature attractive letterforms are also memorable, but remember that you cannot simply translate your name into Chinese and expect the same connotations to apply.
If you’re concerned that your name is too generic or that it doesn’t accurately reflect the brand you’re trying to build, conduct blind tests with consumers and rely on your marketing team to add additional character and meaning through their typography and branding.
At Zudu, we help businesses make their mark in China using our unique digital marketing services. From social media to anti-counterfeiting implementation, make us your first point of contact when you’re ready to expand into one of the world’s most exciting markets.