How to Localize Your Brand Name for a Global Audience


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We live in a time of uncertainty, and, understandably, businesses do not want to take excessive risks. Nonetheless, entering stable and emerging markets might be an effective strategy. The localization of your brand name can be an essential part of it.

Investing time and resources in localization can result in attracting more prospective consumers. According to the Unbabel Global Multilingual CX Report 2021, 69% of global consumers believe it is extremely or very important that brands use their native languages to inform them about products and services.

Cultural variations play a critical role in transforming the identity and positioning of your brand to appeal to a new target audience. The process is more than just a word-for-word translation and has many sublevels. Here are some of the key aspects you want to keep in mind.

Determine the market and the language

The first step is to determine potential markets for your brand. The cost of localization does not change too much between the languages. Therefore, the regions with a higher concentration of prospective customers should be the point of your interest.

Tools like Market Finder by Google can provide ambitious entrepreneurs with useful insights. The tool uses key metrics from the relevant business categories to determine which markets offer you more growth opportunities. Sometimes, going for the market with the highest number of online users can be an effective strategy as well. This stage requires thorough calculation and data analysis.

Explore all the features of your brand name

The analysis of the new audience will highlight the issues your brand name might have when entering a new market. The following questions will guide you in the right direction:

What are the alternatives for interpretation of the brand name?

It is crucial to note down all the interpretations to see a clear picture.

Is the name of your brand self-explanatory?

For instance, if you sell frozen fish sticks and the name of your brans is Fish Sticks, the audience has a clear understanding of the product. Therefore, when localizing the brand name, you might want to choose a literal translation.

Do you need to educate the audience about the new product/service, or do they already know how to use it?

If it’s a new invention and you need to educate the audience about it, consider choosing a brand name that reflects its main advantages or describes its purpose.

Are there any obvious associations with the brand name?

If there are some controversial connotations in terms of the local culture, get creative and start looking for some other name options.

Are there any existing brand names that have similar meanings on the local market?

If so, it is better to avoid any possible trademark issues.

Will the new target audience have difficulties pronouncing the brand name?

How does it sound? Also, are there any local words that sound like it?

Choose between translation and transliteration

One of the major challenges of the localization process is adapting a brand name to languages with phonetic and semantic dissimilarities compared to the source language. For example, the localization of English brand names to Chinese script might require using special strategies. Transliteration is one of them. With China having the highest number of Internet users in the world, it might be one of the markets of your interest.

Countries with the highest number of internet users as of December 2019
Image: ITU; Internet World Stats / Statista

Learning Chinese might be one of the possible solutions to control the process of localization. Especially if you already have some basic language skills and enough time to get ready for your brand’s launch abroad. Taking lessons from a native speaker will help you explore national traditions and customs as well. To avoid the risks of choosing the wrong word for your brand name, consult with a native speaker to review the options of the translated brand name and choose the most suitable one.

Many international companies choose to change their brand names completely to avoid double meanings and misinterpretations. Transliteration is also an opportunity to use an image or metaphor to let your target audience know what your brand’s positioning is. That is why Head & Shoulders translates to “flying silk of the sea” and Marlboro translates to “10,000 treasure road”.

If you are still hesitant, whether to change the brand name or not, consider the option of providing the original brand name and its translation. Some companies choose this option to prioritize their brand consistency. The original name might either come first or follow the translated version:

  • Original Name (Translation)
  • Translation (Original Name)

Think about the budget

When you decide to change a brand name for a local market, you need to pay attention to other steps of the localization strategy. Think about the localization of the company’s website, advertising, and all the POS materials that you are planning to have. Will the new name fit well into the existing design, or will it require a total transformation of the current brand visuals? Some of the options will seem to be perfect until you place them on the current brand logo. Avoid the incongruity between the original brand images and the name you are planning to use.

After you have analyzed the mentioned points, you can decide what part of the budget to allocate to the localization team. You will see the scope of work the team is going to do. Ironically enough, everyone notices the work of the localization team only when something goes wrong. Nonetheless, now you understand the significance of this process and can make an informed decision.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Motortion.

This guest article has been submitted by Ryan Pell. While we appreciate guest contributions, it's important to note that the views expressed by the author are not necessarily reflective of those held by TechAcute.

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This article has been submitted to us by an external contributor to TechAcute. We appreciate all external contributions but the opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of TechAcute.
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