Your company means what in Chinese?

Posted by on September 25, 2012

What does naming a child and a company have in common? A lot if you pick the wrong name…

I recently read Nigel Hollis’ “What’s in a 品牌? How to Name a Company in a Global Economy.” Hollis made several good points those of us in marketing should consider. But first, make sure you read the article in The Atlantic. It’s a quick read and something anyone who works in branding needs to see.

Hollis reminds us we need to consider what names mean in other cultures. Here’s a few things I highlighted in the article:
·         What does the name translate to in other countries?
·         Can other cultures pronounce it? Hollis says pronunciation is the most common challenge faced by brands around the world.
·         China is the most challenging of all markets for foreign brands.

Did you know Coca-Cola translates to “bite the wax tadpole” in Chinese, or that “Got Milk?” translates to “Are you lactating?” in Spanish? Ikea products have had all sorts of translation problems, but those are a little too crude to mention here.

Regardless if it’s a company or campaign name, consider translating the name in other languages during the concepting process – especially in the countries where the company could possibly do business.

While Coca-Cola hasn’t been too affected by its name, think of the kid who faced years of torture on the playground because his parents didn’t think like a six-year-old when brainstorming name options. So, consider your audience and how a name might offend or create a negative first impression.

Do you know of any bad company names whether translated or not? Share what you think are epic failures.


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