Names: Should iPods Dance to a Different Tune in China?

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A recent post on ChinaBlawger, about Apple’s branding strategy raises interesting questions about branding and the subtle use of language in China.

Basically, Apple have used its English branding in China, i.e. iPod and iTunes in Chinese are still…iPod and iTunes. International advertising and marketing people might like the sound of that, especially as China’s young consumers love gadgets (including iPods – unless they live in Guangzhou!). However, the situation is not as simple as it seems.

Blawger notes that while many readers can recognize “iPod” in advertisements, the word does not always come out right when spoken. I quote:

“Because of this weakness, the Chinese have come up with their own pronunciation of iPod. So far, it seems like “易破的” is the most popular pronunciation. Yi-Po-De, which literally translated, means, “easy-broken-the.”

“Easily broken”?! Apart from being amusing (and, some iPod Nano owners would argue, accurate), an additional impact is that Apple misses out on the verbal link with the fast-growing trend for PodCasts. Apple therefore loses out twice.

Foreign marketers in China should take note, and not assume that English is always the way to go. Apart from the issues noted above, the Chinese are a proud people who are proud of their language and culture – added to which there is no longer the general assumption that foreign goods will be better than local ones. But there are no easy solutions. As was entertainingly noted in Rachel DeWoskin’s recent book, “Foreign Babes in Beijing”, Microsoft had problems of a different kind when using a Chinese name (from nwasianweekly.com):

    “Microsoft had crisis after crisis…the company had chosen its Chinese name by translating ‘micro’ and ‘soft’ directly into weiruan, ‘flaccid and little.’”

Probably not the image big Bill Gates had intended! More positive examples of foreign names translated into Chinese (thanks to the Hoffman Agency) include:

    • Lucent’s Chinese name is Lang Xun – Lang means ‘bright’, and Xun means ‘communications’. So, Lucent’s Chinese name means ‘bright communications,’ and it sounds similar to the original English pronunciation.

    • HP’s Chinese name is Hui Pu – Hui means ‘to benefit,’ and Pu means ‘to popularize.’ Therefore the Chinese name communicates HP’s mission to popularize technology that benefits the people.

    • The Chinese name for Ericsson is Ai li Xin – Ai means ‘to love,’ li ‘to establish,’ and Xin means ‘to trust or have confidence.’

The moral of the story? Take advice from local experts, and test the suggestions pre-launch.

We would be happy to assist….

See news sources:

Is English Cooler?
Blawger
New memoir takes astute look at modern China

This “Foreign Babe’s not just a soap star”
brandchannel.com | Naming, Nomenclature, Verbal Identity | Brand …
Clearly, this will depend on the nature of your product, or industry, as well as, the importance of linking the Chinese brand name to the English name. …

What is your Chinese Name?
Consider the classic example of the Chinese name for Coca Cola: Four … In conclusion, it is of paramount importance to have a proper Chinese name for …

5 Responses to “Names: Should iPods Dance to a Different Tune in China?”

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    […] raditional and rural … in other words, it’s outdated”. As previously noted (here http://www.chinabusinessservices.com/blog/?p=159), names are important in China, and it is worth investing a little to get them right at the outset. […]

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