The power of names
Trying to address the Chinese market, most of foreign companies intend to render their names into Chinese. Branding is a very sensitive issue, since misunderstandings are really easy to occur, that is why some aspects should be carefully considered. A good company name in Chinese will help you creating confidence with Chinese consumers by being closer to their mentality and language. Moreover, it will be easier to be remembered and it can even add values to your company if the characters chosen allow it.
Generally speaking, the name is simply transliterated according to the pronunciation, but if the transliteration is longer than 4 or 5 characters, it will be better not to translate it since it would sound weird to the Chinese and will have no significance at all.
Normally, 2 or 3 characters are striking and powerful enough, easy to remember and have a greater chance to convey positive meanings and values close to your company. It is highly advisable to test the chosen name in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese because these are the main dialects spoken in China and surrounding countries, as well as in many other countries where Chinese is present.
What does it sound like?
Considering the above-mentioned information, it is important to give the branding process a thought as some brands already did. For example, referring to the transliteration method, Carrefour has chosen 家乐福 (jiālèfú) as a brand in China that means “home/ happy/ good fortune”. This combination sounds like a French name and at the same time conveys the idea that the quality of the products sold in supermarkets enriches life.
On the other hand, a wrong branding may cause troubles, just like it happened to Peugeot, the translation of which has been accepted as 标致 (biaozhi), but its sounds resemble the one for “prostitute”. Another example comes from Microsoft searching engine “Bing”, which has an homophone in Chinese meaning – among others – sickness. Thus, the translation was settled as “Bi Ying” which literally means “certain to respond, ready to answer.”
Street in China
The Chinese area encompasses approximately 9,600,000 km² , and it includes 22 Provinces, 5 Autonomous Regions, 4 Municipalities and 2 Special Administrative Areas.
On your partner’s leaflets or business cards you may have already seen that Chinese have a different approach to writing the address. This reflects their way of thinking and it is functional in a correct delivery of the post. Normally, in China you always write the Country first, followed by the Province, City, address, and receiver’s name, which is exactly the opposite of what you do in Europe. Last but not least, streets in China are very long and normally divided according to the cardinal points (North, South, East, West), so remember to write “985, Nanjing Xi lu” (West Nanjing Street, 985) to make sure that no one has a problem to reach the company.
When writing the address, it will be better to know some Chinese characters which may be helpful:
- 省 (shěng): Province
- 县 (xiàn): County (you don’t need the county for a big city)
- 市 (shì): City or town
- 区 (qū): District
- 大街 (dàjiē): Avenue
- 路 (lù): Road
- 楼 (lóu): Building
- 室 (shì): Flat/ Apartment/Room
- 号 hào: Number
- 邮编 yóubiān: Zip code
Patrick Ng, Cindy Ngai - Role of Language and Corporate Communication in Greater China: From Academic to Practitioner Perspectives - Kindle Edition – 2015
Marc Fetscherin, Ilan Alon, Romie Littrell, Allan Chan, “In China? Pick Your Brand Name Carefully”, Harvard Business Review