Monday, October 1, 2012

What name for a company in China?

I already told you how we found out our logo.
But what name to choose for a western/ french restaurant and what name to choose for a company in China?

A few rules will help you to select the best company good name : 

  • We are a foreign company and we want to use the positive foreign image and french image
The foreign origin and french origin should be visible in the company name. 

  • The company will operate on the Chinese market and sell to Chinese people.
The name should therefore be understood by Chinese customers.

Is it better to choose a Chinese name, a french name translated into Chinese or a french name without any translation ? Tough question:

A foreign name strengthen a positive foreign image.
But if you choose a foreign and french name it should be understood by Chinese people. This is the best solution but the choice remains limited.

You can choose a surname, family name or one or two letters of the alphabet as many western chain restaurant from Hong Kong and Taiwan do: Dio Coffee, Milo Coffee, UBC Coffee... Behind a foreign name these chinese groups use a positive foreign image. There are numerous example of this.
What is more a french or foreign name should be translated into Chinese : not easy. You then have two names! One Chinese and the other one foreigner!
We decided to choose one name written in Chinese but that cleary appears to be a foreign name. We thought about surname. We could choose between surnames, letters or places. And Chinese legislation doesn’t allow you to register famous place and people names. You can not register Paris, Napoleon, Seine river (known in China for being a place of romance).

You should also know that while registering the name you should submit three choices. And many good names are already registered. Same as in France the name should not be similar to a already registered name.
We thought about Louis. In fact it is a very good name : french cliché. Even though in China Louis is still not known to the mass, we can anticipate that in a few years i twill be (since Louis Vuitton brand is developping at lightning speed… this brand is known by Chinese as LV but rich Chinese know that this means Louis Vuitton!)
Unfortunately some name close to Louis was already registered.

  • The Chinese company name should have a positive meaning.
In China all names have meanings. A french name will be translated into Chinese caracters that have a meaning. This meaning is very important for Chinese (same as numbers or colors). 
A negative meaning will get customer away. A positive meaning will greatly help develop the business.

For instance:
Carrefour translate in Chinese as happiness for the whole family
Coca Cola translates as good brings happiness
Pizza Hut translate house and happiness

We find positive caracters in China: family, happiness, joy...

Some brand play on words. A name can have two different meaning : overall meaning that allows to identify the product, the service given and a positive meaning in order to develop the image.

  • You should have a short name
Longer names can not be remembered easily. My Chinese wife recommand two to three chinese characters.
Nothing forbids you to add a moto under the logo. My wife thought to use Oulala. Since these french words are famous for all Chinese who learn french (same as c’est la vie). However I found out a company in Beijing already registered this brand! 

A Chinese friend greatly helped me to find out the name.
In order to find the name you should be Chinese (or bilingual and even this is not enough). You should be Chinese and understand the Chinese culture and the french clichés. This is a very tough exercice.

  • It is always good to have a story behind the name
Chinese people love story and history. It is even better if the story is famous, dramatic, love, historical, old... This will encourage small talk: if the story is good Chinese customers will repeat it to their friends, relatives...

We finaly chose Leduc since it translated into Chinese as the house of everyone and happy: a positive meaning.
In french a duc or duke is a noble title, often given to the brother of the king. This is also a good story. The story will be repeated.

As I found out after many months, recently Chinese customers prefer authentic western names without any Chinese translations. After all the scandals with bad Chinese products (exceptially food products scandals), customers are looking for real foreign products: no need for any translation. And many Chinese rich customer understand english, french However the foreign, English, french name should be simple.

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