China is today the second largest economy in the world, the size of the market is growing at an amazing rate. Big, with enormous potential, the Chinese market is being targeted by many foreign companies, hoping to benefit from this “gold rush”. However, there are many difficulties when it comes to adapting its business strategy in China.
Entering the Chinese market is complicated: many highly successful brands have failed in China, including Mattel, eBay, Google and Home Depot. Why?
Local competition has a higher base of reference and the market speed crashes companies that are not ready for rapid market cycles. Consumer behavior in China remains shrouded in the mystery of unique cultural dynamics. Without the knowledge and tool kit needed for localization, the brand is expelled or fails to penetrate.
Word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool in China.
Following the collectivist culture, Chinese consumers tend to think in groups, based on the reputation told by friends or family. Brand recognition is therefore so important that consumers are willing to pay more when they recognize a positive value within the brand. The Chinese name of your brand is the first impression that is fixed in the mind of consumers, at this point it should be clear that the name of your brand and its translation in Chinese should have priority in your strategy of attacking the Chinese market.
The name of the brand is the first, as well as one of the most crucial points for foreign companies.
When we talk about the brand name, we refer to the translation you will make of your official name and then of the names you will to give to each product you sell.
You have to keep in mind that less than 10% of the Chinese population speaks English. This means that less than 10% of the population is familiar with an alphabetic language composed of Latin letters. Basically, for more than 90% of the population it is extremely difficult to remember a name written in Latin characters, in other words, most of the population makes the same effort to remember a foreign name that you would do to remember a Chinese name.
Moreover, since digitalization has already conquered China, its consumers do online research on the brands they have heard about, and they do it in their own language.
For this reason, whenever you decide to enter this market, you must ensure that your brand and the name of your products appear in two languages: original language and Chinese.
However, making a simple translation is not enough. A name generates an immediate reaction in the minds of consumers. Exploiting this power and transmitting the essence of your brand is the key to effectively explaining who you are in the local market context. Many cases have shown that choosing the wrong name can have enormous consequences for foreign companies. Without having a good Chinese linguistic and cultural knowledge, some names may have strange pronunciations in Mandarin or other regional dialects, or even worse, negative meanings for the collective imagination, negatively affecting your branding strategy.
One of the most common mistakes made by foreign companies is to “translate” the name of the brand by relying on the pronunciation of the characters, regardless of the meaning that words have when interacting with each other or not interacting at all.
A successful example in the translation of the name is Coke, 可口可乐 pronounced “Kekou Kele” which means “tasty and fun”.
Another point to keep in mind is the high level of counterfeiting that brands suffer in China.
Brand names have no value if they are not registered correctly.
China is the world leader in trademark registrations, with 17 million brands by 2018.
Many companies make the mistake of thinking they are not “important enough” to be counterfeited, but in a market where cities might have 25 million inhabitants, there is no need to be internationally famous to attract the attention of local companies. Moreover, many brands think they do not need a Chinese name because they decide to base all their communication on an appealing logo, this would only make you more vulnerable to counterfeiting, a logo is even easier to imitate than a name, and it would really be difficult to check for false copies.
After choosing the name in Chinese it is vitally important to register the trademark on the country. This procedure can be easily managed by consultants who are able to protect your brand and your logo.
Here are some of the variables to keep in mind when choosing the brand name in Chinese:
1. Market research on existing brands in the sector, use of key words and effectiveness of terms for the related market field;
2. Language check to make sure that the pronunciation sounds positively in all dialects in China;
3. Legal control to study the copyright status in order to register the brand in China;
4. Be sure you have clear picture of Chinese cultural aspects and traditions in order to get catchy, suggestive and meaningful names in the ears of Chinese consumers.
5. Choose colors, typeface, typographic composition by transmitting powerful ideas associated with various, positive emotions.