From “Made in China” to “Brands from China”: English naming imperatives for Chinese brands

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“Made in China” is one of the most recognizable labels in the world; but to stay competitive, there is great urgency for Chinese companies to shift from cost-effective manufacturers to true innovators. They must also recognize the importance of expanding into global markets.

Take Haier, China’s biggest appliance maker. Back in 2000, Haier began selling small refrigerators under its own name in the U.S. One year later, the company moved into a landmark building in midtown Manhattan. Today Haier is the leading major appliance brand in the world, with more than 250 models of refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers and other appliances.

Like wildfire, Chinese companies are bringing their high-quality products and services—along with carefully honed marketing and branding strategies—to worldwide markets. The era of “Brands from China” has arrived.

With this comes an imperative for Chinese companies to create brand names in English and other languages. These are names that can “travel” globally, and resonate with wider audiences. There’s a great need for names that go beyond identifiers for different brands—that signal the dramatic and positive changes happening in China today.

Naming is a combination of art and science. When working with companies in China, we’re also learning that it requires knowledge and understanding of both Western and Eastern cultures. But in the end, it’s all about helping these expanding brands express the truth of who or what they are across different borders and boundaries.

Developing names for Chinese technology brands planning to market their products worldwide has been particularly interesting. It takes a great deal of cultural understanding, diligence and flexibility in both business and legal structures to bring these names to life.

In our next blogs we’ll discuss the different approaches Chinese companies are taking to develop corporate and product-level names both inside and outside China, the “Made with China” movement, as well as a number of other topics around branding and naming in China.

Cecilia Yu is a strategist for the Siegel+Gale Shanghai office.

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