Giving your brand a good Chinese name is an essential step to ensure your company’s future success in the Chinese market, especially for companies that sell products directly to Chinese customers. A good translation, which is a combination of both sound and meaning, boosts the chances of your products being remembered and recognised by more local Chinese customers. But it is essential that you register your name and trademark in China before you even enter the country! Having it registered in the EU doesn’t grant you protection in China.
The following should help SMEs that have not yet decided on a Chinese brand name get on the right track from the start.
1. Translate your brand names into Chinese and register the relative trademarks
In China, registration of a trademark in roman characters does not automatically protect the trademark against the use or registration of the same or similar trademark written in Chinese. Therefore, it is highly advisable to register a Chinese version of a foreign trademark to protect your business from the start. In addition, if there is no existing Chinese character name for a foreign brand, random translations by shop keepers, customers, suppliers and even competitors may occur, which sometimes carry negative connotations. To get further advice on registering trademarks in China, please contact the China IPR SME Helpdesk, another EU-funded project providing free services to European companies: https://www.china-iprhelpdesk.eu/.
2. Choose a translation with both phonetic and semantic associations with the original and adjust the emphasis and visibility of the Western/Chinese name according to the targeted consumer categories and the relative marketing strategies.
There are four common strategies that foreign companies in China adopt to translate their brand names: (i) no adaption; (ii) sound adaption; (iii) meaning adaption; and (iv) dual adaption. The best outcome is to have a Chinese name with both phonetic and semantic associations with the original (dual adaptation), especially for those companies that aim at reaching the wealthier sections of Chinese consumers.
To ensure your translation is adequate, ask for advice from your local Chinese friends, colleagues or professional translation companies. It is also noteworthy that a wide range of articles and case studies on this topic are available online.