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

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):

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

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:

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