For a foreign company entering the Chinese market, there will be a number of tasks on its priority list, such as product registration and certification, a good business model, qualified logistics or distribution partners, company location assessment, and so on – but is there anything else that is important but easily overlooked? The answer is yes: find a good brand name in Chinese.
Why is that? Let’s look at an example. The U.S. home-sharing service Airbnb announced its Chinese name “Aibiying (爱彼迎)” earlier this year. It literally means to “welcome each other with love.” Sounds nice, right? However, Chinese consumers have said “it is hard to pronounce two similar-sounding syllables one after the other” and it sounds like “to love to fulfill requests.” One Chinese netizen commented: “I’m embarrassed to even put the Airbnb app with the others; it looks like an app for sex products.”
When choosing a Chinese brand name, several factors need to be taken into consideration: the meaning, the sound, the tone and even the look of the Chinese characters. “It requires a joint effort involving marketing and PR experts, translators as well as consultants,” says Fangfang Chen from the Swiss Business Hub China.
Register your Trade Mark in China
Your chosen Chinese brand name will be of no use to you unless you make sure that no one else is allowed to print it on their products. Chinese trade mark protection follows a first-to-file principle, which means the application successfully filed earliest will be approved first. For foreign companies planning to enter the Chinese market, it is better to register your trade mark beforehand so as to ensure the “trade mark goes before marketing.”
It is important to note that the registration of the trade mark in Roman characters and the registration of the trade mark in Chinese should be filed separately; a registration in Roman characters does not automatically protect the same or similar Chinese version as a trade mark.