Exploit Advantages in Chinese Brand Naming

As FedEx and UPS expand their services in China, one leading linguist argues that they could have profited more from the positive sounds of their names transliterated into Chinese.

The name FedEx has a strong association in Mandarin Chinese with fei, which is flying – a desirable name hinting at speed. The U of UPS also has a good association: it sounds like yo in Mandarin Chinese, meaning excellent. In Taiwan, UPS has its name transliterated as You Bi Su (literally 'excellent-compared-to-fast,' insinuating quality service as well as speed).

Fed Ex’s “flying” nuance effectively expresses excellence with a picture of quickness in delivering, according to Andy Chuang, president of Good Characters in Fresno, California.

According to their official Chinese websites, however, both FedEx and UPS chose to translate the meaning of their names rather than transliterate the already familiar American names. The result is a mouthful. FedEx is Lian Bang Kuai Di, meaning Federal Express; UPS is Lian He Bao Guo Yun Sung Fu Wu, meaning United Parcel Service. Fortunately for them and no surprise to nameologists, customers use the shorter, positive-sounding English name more often.

The bottom line: Consider the positive association your brand name might have if transliterated into Chinese, and take advantage of it.

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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