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Get a perfect Chinese name before entering China

chinese names, foreign companies in china, learning chinese

If you're a well-to-do Shanghai resident, you might start a typical day with a cup of Starry Hope, and then check email on your Triple Stars before driving to the office in your Treasured Horse. After work, you might unwind with a cold bottle of Hundred Prestige.


In case you missed it, that's actually Starbucks, Samsung, BMW and Budweiser.


The Chinese names of these well-known brands might sound silly in English, but they're key to helping foreign companies rake in billions in China, where a name is thought to make or break your luck.


For companies, coming up with a name that fits the firm's image is tricky enough.


"The wrong name will just give the wrong impression," said Tait Lawton, founder of Nanjing Marketing Group. Foreign firms have "to understand there is meaning in Chinese characters." Best Buy, for example, didn't have a very catchy Chinese name, using a near-direct translation from English, Lawton said. This electronics retailer never caught on in China.


Some brands have found success with names that not only sound like their English monikers, but also have significant meaning in Chinese. "Rui bu," used by Reebok, means "fast steps," while Nike goes by "nai ke," which translates to "endurance and perseverance." Coca-Cola came up with a clever one, "kekou kele," which means "delicious fun," and stays true to the original English.


It's important "to connect with the category … [and] to be close to your target audience, to be accessible," said Vladimir Djurovic, CEO of Labbrand, a company in China. Banks, for instance, seeking to attract the rich, should consider names that give off the impression of wealth and prosperity. London bank HSBC went with "hui feng," which roughly translates to "gathered abundance." A direct translation for HSBC, which stands for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, wouldn't have worked — in Chinese, it would have sounded like every other local bank, instead of a global finance powerhouse.


Others, like French grocery chain, Carrefour, will want to appear more consumer-friendly. Its Chinese name, "jia le fu," means "happy family."

Djurovic said that choosing a good Chinese name can take up to a year. "There is no absolute rule … the right name will always depend on a couple of things," he said.



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