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Chinese Brand Translation - Verbal Identity

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In the past, many large corporations made a fatal assumption that they can replicate their home made successful business model abroad, often to discover that it's a costly mistake.

In different culture, people's perception of colors could be dramatically different. For example, while westerners associate wedding with white color (wedding gowns, lily, cake, champagne etc...), most countries in Asia associate it with death!

A brand is an identity. It is composed of two elements: Visual Identity, such as color, shape, icon, logo, typesetting/font, letters, word etc; And Verbal Identity, such as the sound of the name, the tag line.

While Visual Identity is easily understood and most company's these days are hiring professional graphic specialist to create quality visual materials and maintain it's consistency across all media. This is because we understand that if we use inconsistent color, font or logo on TV or print commercials and those of our company stationeries, then we will create confusion among our customers, this will diminish the value of our brand as it's identity is getting lost.

The same is true for Verbal Identity elements. Since the Verbal elements are subtler, it's often overlooked. Chances are you've heard about how Chevrolet had problems marketing the Chevy Nova vehicles in Latin America. Since in Spanish "no va" means "it doesn't go", Latin American car buyers shunned the car, forcing the embarrassed Chevrolet to pull the car out of the Latin America market. Even though nova convey the sense of newness of a product when used in a brand name, but it just doesn't necessarily reveal the same notion when pronounced in another language.

In 1987, Colonel Sanders set up his first mainland China KFC outlet. Their famous "finger-lickin' good" was set into Chinese characters that meant "eat your fingers off." That was quickly changed and today there are over 900 KFC restaurants in China.

When translated into Chinese, Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" became "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave."

The Chinese brand translation blunders like these go on and on... It maybe reads funny, but the financial loss and embarrassment is real and irreparable.

While translating an established brand name into Chinese, some companies will rush to a quick decision, either under a deadline pressure or following a recommendation from a partner or senior executive out of respect.

One typical scenario is that name is quickly registered after a clearance research, then the URL is bought and website is built, the stationeries are quickly printed and maybe commercials are prepared or launched, then soon after, the medical equipment company(or other categories) is embarrassed to learn that the company name sounds like a commonly known pesticide for 300 million people living in northern provinces!

There are many risks involved. The name may not communicate the original brand value; The emotional associations may be completely lost or even goes against the original connections.

Chinese Translation Pro is an established Chinese Verbal Identity consultant you can trust. We help you to find the right brand name for the Chinese market. We have advised Dow Chemicals, Tyco, Covidien, Interbrand among other firms on Chinese Verbal Identity consultantChinese brand Translations. Our expertise goes beyond the translation of a name. If you consider your company's brand as one of the most important assets, then you should talk to us.

Do you want to translate a website into Chinese? Please inquire about our Chinese website localization service.

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How to translate business names into Chinese.pdf