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Why You Need A Chinese Name For Your Brand In China?

Why do you need a Chinese brand name for your business in China? It has been a source of confusion and frustration for years here in Beijing – a problem since companies first entered the Chinese market. If you know anything about marketing, you’ll be familiar with the idea of targeting – look for that specific group of people who are ripe to make great use of your product or service. There is no better form of targeting than words.

If your target market uses a niche word, then you should, too. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to know if you need a Chinese brand name or not – but we’re here to give you the best details and data on why and how to deal with this sticky “little” problem.

Do you need a Chinese name for your business in China?
TLDR (short answer): YES

We’ll take you through a few of the reasons it’s good to have a Chinese name for your foreign business below, but in general, just know that if you really want to do well in a Chinese market, you need a Chinese name. And not just something that sounds a bit Chinese. You need to have a Chinese name in Chinese characters that means something real in Mandarin / Mandarin Chinese (the main language used in Mainland China). 

Your global Brand Is Better With a Chinese Brand Name

There are roughly 917 million native Mandarin Chinese speakers around the world. Compare that to 379 million English speakers.

Unless you’re a massive brand with recognition the world-over, tailoring your company to a Chinese market through ensuring your name is recognizable in that language is a must.

As you already know, breaking into a new market is all about finding a way to tailor your product and marketing to this new audience. A key feature of that? Making sure your brand appeals to them in all ways. Let’s think about it from the opposite perspective: a Chinese company wants to sell its products in the UK. Without an English name (in Roman alphabet), consumers wouldn’t be able to relate to that product, or perhaps even understand what the brand was about. If you can’t read the name, how will you pronounce it? Let alone remember it when making your final purchasing choice.

Having a Chinese name makes it easier for people to not only understand your company’s name but it also makes it easier for them to remember it in the future. If you (a non-Chinese speaker) were shown a series of Chinese characters and asked later to remember them, could you? If you create a name that means something in Chinese, it makes it much more likely that people will engage with your brand and recognize it in the future. 

Chinese People Will Actually Find You In Search

The billions of Chinese people using the internet each and every day do so in Chinese. Massive search engines and e-commerce platforms are optimized for Chinese characters and people in China search using Chinese words — there’s no surprise there.

How Are People Using Search Engines In China?

So, if your company has a Chinese name that will come up when people search in Chinese, you’re instantly better off. Let’s make it easy for you. Whatever your (yes your own) native language is, everything is easier in that language. Let’s say your native language in this example is English. You go on holiday to Germany. The language and the words look a bit similar to English. Some of the words are the same. Some of them look similar. some of them just look very strange. You go to the supermarket with your loved one to buy some food to cook at your Airbnb in Berlin. You pick up a tin of food – you see the words and you’re not exactly sure if it is spicy tomato sauce or not. You think so, but you can’t be sure. so you pause.
Regardless of whether you personally took that risk or not, we all know that a clear description that you understand would have confirmed a quick sale with no need for a return. That’s our goal for each business we support on their journey….

A Chinese Brand Name Creates A Clear Presence In The Chinese Market

Names in China can mean a lot. It’s one reason it’s important that the name you choose for your company isn’t just a direct translation or a randomly selected series of characters. There are numerous examples of bad naming from foreign companies coming into China. One really good example is US electronic maker Best Buy. They chose characters that sort of sound like the English name when said out loud: 百思买 ‘bǎi sī mǎi’. However, one translation of this phrase: ‘to buy after thinking 100 times’. Do you want to suggest that someone thinks 100 times before buying your product? – Not exactly ” Just Do It..” from Nike, right? 

Learn From Coca Cola’s China Branding Example

At the opposite end of the spectrum, beverage giant Coca-Cola is arguably a large enough brand not to even need a translated name. They went for something that sounded like English, also meant something in Chinese. 可口可乐 ‘kě kǒu kě lè’, can mean ‘tasty fun’ while also sounding like Coca-Cola when said aloud. This is the magic mix that you are looking for……

Choosing a good Chinese name is a chance not only to connect with your customers in their language. It also gives you space to say something about your brand at the same time.

This added element is a bonus. Most people don’t even know what Starbucks and Nike actually are ( a character from Moby Dick and a Greek Goddess) because the brand has taken over the name. In Chinese, every character has meaning. – you can’t escape that. So..You should take the opportunity to brand and market using your Chinese brand name


Your China Admin Process Will Be So Much Smoother 

From opening bank accounts to registering addresses to creating a WeChat store: everything is that much simpler in China if you have a Chinese name to input into electronic systems. With thousands upon thousands of companies in China, systems aren’t going to make it easy for companies with names in different languages. The government also wants companies to have Chinese names in order to maintain Chinese culture via Mandarin.

The “Insider” Info On What Can Go Wrong With Search

So..If you don’t get a Chinese brand name things aren’t so clearly obvious to your potential customers – that is covered. There is also one big snag that is very China-related for you to watch out for – copycats. As we all know, the Chinese have been very good at copying everything on the planet for a number of years now. Your brand name will be no exception. I have previously worked for at least 2 companies who have had their identity mimicked in China and then rival businesses set up. It is fairly simple. Let’s get you an example. Your brand is called ” MOWAX”. you haven’t entered China. A copycat from PRC decides to copy your brand and products. It 90% copies your IP, logo, and products. It calls itself ” MYWAX” and registers a Chinese brand name. You know nothing about this. Until you decide to register, you have no idea what is happening in China and what someone could be doing to both your current brand and your future business. So…..

The strong advice here is:
If you are considering China sometime in the next 5 years
Do your due diligence
Consider your brand name and registrations now

So What’s Next?

The best thing you can do is to read our upcoming post. We’ll be featuring some famous brands and giving some insight into what they have done well and badly. If you want to get notifications of when we publish our updates on China business topics, then join our mailing list for updates.

If you are hungry to read more on Chinese internet marketing right now, then check out this post on payments in China….

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