Mark Tanner

Getting Branding Right in China

2017/04/05 Mark Tanner
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A cute little penguin with a scarf, a curious pussycat and a floppy-eared pooch. Not the beginnings of a children’s story but the iconic logos of three gargantuan powerhouses in the Chinese market. A brief survey of China’s top brands and the gulf in branding ideology from the West is clear. Where some may argue for Apple, the realm of cutesy logos remains confined to the Middle Kingdom.

With China’s rising horde of shoppers spending increasingly at home and abroad, it is best not to underestimate the contribution that China funnels to a brand’s value. Baijiu exemplifies this. Barely consumed outside of China, 37.5% of the world’s top-50 spirits brands are Baijiu brands. For the first time the value of Baijiu brands eclipsed that of Whiskey on the list.

Of course building a successful brand goes beyond mere words and symbols. Yet the name and logo make up the company flag that flies atop the mast, forever present across a brand’s dealings and communications – so its success is imperative. Having a Chinese brand name is crucial. For those foreign business yet to lock one in, there’s a good chance your distributor/s have adopted one, probably trademarked it and are trying to establish it as the accepted reference point. If they haven’t trademarked it, someone else may have, which can lead to all sorts of problems down the line.

Chinese brand names will generally roll off the tongue more naturally than foreign ones and be easier to share on social media and other digital platforms. Whilst it shouldn’t replace your recognisable foreign brand and in most cases not be displayed on the original packaging (otherwise consumers will question if your products are authentically foreign) it should be used on the Chinese label and in communications.

With its plethora of characters Chinese is a beautiful language presenting plenty of opportunities to develop a name with a clever meaning that resonates with Chinese consumers. However it can also go pear-shaped if taken out of context. AirBnB learned of the importance of getting your Chinese name right last month, launching a name that was both hard to pronounce and sounded like a love shop.

As part of developing a Chinese name, brands should be tested with consumers, ideally verbally as well as written, across different regions to account for cultural, slang and dialect differences. Agencies like China Skinny can assist with every step of the process. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.

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