In China Western brands have different names. Coca Cola; Hermes and Nestlè change their name, here is the reason and the new Chinese name.

How Western Brands Market in China

Within an international marketing plan, the branding strategy defines the corporate identity, and the essence of what companies would like to communicate. A brand is a complex combination of Name, Logo, concepts associated, products, and family products. Promoting a brand in new markets could be a considerable challenge. Companies must evaluate different factors such as cultural habits, values, language, specificities of media, and so on.

The institutional environment is another essential aspect of introducing a brand in a foreign market. There are enforced norms that establish to translate and register a brand in the Chinese language in China.

Companies are used to assuming Chinese brand names because there are not many people who speak and read English in China. In this case, a Chinese brand name can be more easily readable and memorizable by customers.

How to adapt a western brand name in China

Western brands in China have different names, actually there are different criteria to translate a brand name into Chinese:

The phonetic translation adapts the original sound in Chinese. For example, Parmalat became “帕玛拉特,” it is pronounced “pà-ma-la-tè”. It has a strong similar sound to the original brand name, but it has no meaning related to the company’s product and business. In fact, “pà-ma-la-tè” means “handkerchief-pull-particularly”.

The semantic translation allows companies to express the same meaning of the original brand name. For example, Volkswagen in German means “car for the people”, in Chinese it has been translated into “da-zhòng qì-che” which literally means “People-car”.

Companies that use a phonetic approach shall consider the semantic meaning to do not damage their reputation and image. In fact, there are so many negative examples of brand name translation in Chinese.

Best-Buy in China

One of the brands that changed its name in China is Best-Buy is a clear reference to their product being the best choice, but its Chinese translation was not so appropriate. In fact, the name 百思买 (Baisimai) although assonant, it has a very inefficient translation which is “Before buying think 100 times”. Who knows, maybe this may have been one of the reasons why the Minnesota-based company quit the Chinese market in 2011.

Peugeot in China

Nothing better happen to Peugeot. The French car manufacturer chose the name 标致 (Biaozhi), the translation is “wonderful”, and so far, it sounds good, but Peugeot did not consider that in some China areas the pronunciation is dangerously similar to 婊子 (Biaozi), that it means “prostitute”.

Hermes in China

Sometimes the problem is not the brand name translation but the trademark registration. The French brand Hermes has fought a legal battle over the name 爱马仕 (Aimashi). In fact, the company has selected this translation of its brand name, but it was already registered. Naturally, Hermes lost the case, and it was forced to change its Chinese brand name.

Western brands marketing in China

Coca Cola in China

The most successful naming example takes into account a hybrid approach (a mixture of phonetic and semantic translation). Coca-Cola promotes its products with the Chinese name “可口可乐” (Kěkǒukělè), the Chinese pronunciation is very similar to the original sound and It also means “happiness in the mouth”, this translation certainly recalls the features and the taste of the most famous fizzy drink in the world.

Marlboro in China

The famous Marlboro cigarettes are named after Great Marlborough Street in Soho. The brand was first manufactured in the Philip Morris cigarette factory which used to be located on Great Marlborough Street. This detail doesn’t have a particular meaning for the Chinese audience, for this reason, Marlboro in the Chinese market decided to use the name 万宝路 (Wanbaolu). Wanbaolu means “10000 ways to the treasure”. Marlboro with this name can transmit the concept of success and quality, keeping an assonance whit the original brand name.

Nestlè in China

Western brands changed names in China and some companies have adopted an alternative approach over the years. This approach consists of translating the logo into a word or phrase. Nestlè has as its logo a nest where a mother feeds its birdies. In China, Nestlè has translated its company brand name into “quiochào,” which means “birds nest” this translation choice recalls the company logo and promotes an association with Food for infants and children.

Expertise and cultural awareness in China

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room” and an attractive brand name can be a good starting point to better promotion, visibility, and spreading of company messages and products.

To avoid the use of ideograms that refer to improper meanings and that would result in the adverse side effects that can be associated with ideograms referring to offensive purposes, it is often recommended to use native speakers who are familiar with the different meanings of the Chinese language and the cultural implications associated with the language.

Long Advisory is a marketing agency specializing in the Chinese market-based in Beijing. Thanks to the multicultural team, and its many years of expertise, Long Advisory supports Western companies interested in establishing their brand in China including a tailor-made solution.

Success in China takes time

It should be remembered that a correct investment in the Chinese market will bear fruit in the long term. To better understand this concept, imagine that you regularly eat hamburgers and are suddenly offered a delicious course of fish. How many would accept the change? Just a few, because they are wary of something they do not know. This concept perfectly fits the Chinese view. Branding in China will make a brand or service known to a continually growing population and market.

Long Advisory agenzia di marketing in Cina

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 make 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.

Interested in expanding your brand in China? Contact us for more info and details at


Alessio Caroli 

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