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Western Brand Names into Chinese: 3 Translating Techniques

Entering the Chinese market is a big step for any Western business, and one of the first things to consider is translating Western brand names into Chinese characters. 

The right translation is crucial to effectively communicate the brand’s values and attract Chinese consumers. 

In this article, we will explore the three most commonly used translation techniques to transform Western brands into Chinese names.

3 Effective Techniques to Translate Your Brand’s Name into Chinese

Transliteration: Emphasising Sound Similarity

Literal Translation: Following Chinese Language Structure

Ex-Novo Translation: Choosing Characters with Good Meanings

Choosing the Right Translation

Transliteration: Emphasising Sound Similarity

The most commonly used technique is transliteration, which focuses on creating a Chinese name based on the sound similarity of Chinese characters with the original name. 

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Create a name solely based on sound similarity. For example, Nike becomes 耐克 (nài kè) and Adidas becomes 阿迪达斯 (ā dí dá sī).
  2. Create a name that sounds like the original and reflects the brand’s core values. For instance, Coca-Cola is translated as 可口可乐 (kě kǒu kě lè), which means “tasty and happy”. This translation positions the beverage as a product that not only tastes good but also brings joy to the consumers. Similarly, Ikea‘s Chinese name is 宜家 (yí jiā), which means “suitable for the home”.

Literal Translation: Following Chinese Language Structure

The second technique is literal translation, which follows the structure of the Chinese language. 

For example, Microsoft‘s Chinese name is “微软” (wēi ruǎn), where “微” (wēi) means “small” or “micro” and “软” (ruǎn) means “soft”. In this case, the name is chosen by replicating the original name.

Ex-Novo Translation: Choosing Characters with Good Meanings

The third technique is ex-novo translation, which does not follow the phonetic or semantic rules of the words that make up the brand name. 

Instead, Chinese characters with good meanings are chosen, possibly related to the product the brand sells. This type of translation takes into account the perception that consumers have of the brand itself.

For example:

  1. Head & Shoulders is translated as 海飞丝 (hǎi fēi sī), which literally means “silk flying over the sea”. This name aims to create the image of hair blowing in the wind, made like silk thanks to Head & Shoulders products.
  2. Sprite‘s Chinese name is 雪碧 (xuě bì), which means “blue snow”. This name is intended to remind people of the iconic color of the drink, which is typically consumed cold.

Choosing the Right Translation

The choice of translation technique depends on the brand’s needs and the values it wants to communicate to Chinese consumers. 

Consideration should be given to the pronunciation, writing, and meaning of Chinese characters to create a name that is easy to pronounce, remember, and communicate

With an appropriate translation, Western brands can build a strong presence in the Chinese market and reach a wider and more diverse audience.

Choosing the right Chinese name for your brand is a critical decision, and Long Advisory can support you during the decision-making process. 

Our team of experts can help you with market research, brand strategy, and cultural insights to ensure your business succeeds in the Chinese market. 

Long Advisory digital marketing agency in China

Long Advisory supports American and European companies in China through digital marketing. In fact, our experience has led us to believe that today, the best and most convenient approach to making your brand well-known in China is through a digital approach. Furthermore, thanks to our know-how, we know how to make your brand known to potential Chinese consumers. With the effective coordination of Long Advisory, your company will see a new rise in the largest market in the world: China.

Long Advisory is a digital marketing agency specializing in developing digital marketing solutions tailored for the Chinese market. 

Interested in expanding your brand in China? Contact us for more info and details at info@longadvisory.eu

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