When a company expands its business internationally, one of the most basic – and most important – concerns is the simple question of translating the business name into another language.
Localizing the name effectively is not only a good way to boost business success, but it’s also essential to avoiding embarrassing errors.
A CNN Money article about naming businesses in Asia provides the excellent example of an American law firm that paid the price of poor translation with its chosen Chinese name. Native Chinese speakers interpreted the translation as “garbage pile” — not a label that any law firm wants to be associated with.
And that’s far from the only such example. As recently as early 2017, Airbnb ran into trouble with their own Chinese name, which many consumers found hard to pronounce and strange when alternatively translated.
If you’re expanding your company into global markets, make sure you heed the following advice.
Turn to Linguistic Experts
To create a good business name in a new market, you’ll first need to consult expert linguists for help. Skilled language professionals should be able to answer relevant questions about localizing the name of your business, such as:
- Can your business name be translated directly, or will it sound odd, cheesy or even offensive as a direct translation?
- What might some suitable alternatives be if direct translation isn’t a good option?
- Would it serve you better to simply maintain the native-language name of your business? After all, in some countries — China among them — an English name might carry some cachet with no translation necessary.
When seeking advice on naming your business, the experts you contact should be those who are well-versed in the target language and culture, as well as how to sell goods and services in your target market.
Although you might be tempted to turn to academic sources, such as university professors, they’re unlikely to have the advertising savvy needed to make the leap to the full localization of your company’s name. For that, you need dedicated language professionals who are familiar with the linguistic nuances used in business — and advertising — contexts.
Do Your Cultural Research
You may think that language is the most significant aspect when naming your business, but cultural localization is just as important. Doing your cultural research means finding out what characteristics are valued by the culture of the country in question.
Is there an object or number that’s considered lucky? Wordplay that can be adapted to your company’s name? Taking these kinds of factors into account can help in the creation of a name that will appeal to consumers in your new market.
By the same token, it’s vital to find out what characteristics are derided by the culture or what elements may be found unappealing.
Many Asian cultures, for example, tend to be more conservative than American society, so it’s important to tread lightly when it comes to potentially offensive business names. Another example: in the United States, a bunny rabbit is considered a cute and cuddly creature, but it’s often regarded as a nasty pest in Australia — on par with the status of a rat.
Brand Name and Identity: Closely Intertwined
Cultural and linguistic elements should be given equal value when naming your business in another language. If you’re translating from English to Chinese, for instance, you’ll want to consider everything from Chinese cultural values to whether your business name will work in both Mandarin and Cantonese.
Alternately, a name that is perfectly acceptable in Chinese can sound utterly ludicrous in English. According to the CNN Money article mentioned above, a US law firm’s Chinese name of “Plentiful Knowledge and Victorious in Our Pursuit of Gold” garnered compliments in Hong Kong. However, it’s certainly not a name that would work in the US!
It’s important to remember that your business name is closely intertwined with your brand image. Consider how you want your company to be seen overseas, and consider both cultural and linguistic details when naming your business in order to boost corporate success.
When you’re ready to take your brand global, contact the professionals at Accredited Language for assistance in naming your company, as well as localizing your content for your new target market.