Brand names and tag lines can be interpreted differently in different country markets. Google for ‘bad translations’ and you will find plenty of funny examples. Do you know why car model Chevy Nova didn’t do well in Latin America? Because ‘Nova’ means ‘doesn’t go’ in Spanish. Haha! But not funny to Chevrolet. While entertaining to the outsider, many brands were affected or killed because of their nonchalant globalization and localization efforts. The good news is: it’s easy to avoid such blunders if global localization starts with simple linguistic evaluation of the name.
Brand name evaluation process
We are often asked: “will my brand name work with this international audience?”
Whether it’s a new or existing name, there is only one way to find out. Ask the locals!
As a professional service, we evaluate brand names and taglines across international markets and languages. The goal is to discover potential issues upfront – before the name is launched.
We leverage the insight of local linguists – native speakers in the target market – and ask them to evaluate one or more names. A specific set of questions is used to reveal the following information:
- General interpretation (what’s the first thought that comes to mind?)
- All possible meanings (how else can it be interpreted?)
- Negative connotations (any negative or controversial associations?)
- Existing names with a similar meaning (possible trademark concerns?)
- Pronunciation issues (how does the name sound in the local language?)
- Phonetic similarities (what other local words sound like it?)
This process is repeated for every market & language. Results are analyzed and discussed with the client to get a complete picture of any possible issue the name might have in the target market.
When to translate a brand name?
Some legacy brands such as McDonalds, Ford or VISA have a name that stands out from the crowd and works in all countries and cultures with equal success. The more recent and lesser-known brand names can be vulnerable to possible issues or misconceptions in the global market place.
The decision to localize a brand name depends on many factors. Here are a few to think about:
- How serious is the issue with the name? – if it’s not so bad that would potentially affect the perception of your product or service, you might not want to change or translate it.
- Is the issue isolated or across multiple markets? – if there are negative connotations consistently across multiple markets, consider changing or translating the name.
- Will it alter brand perceptions? – if there are associations to the name that might alter perception, consider changing or translating it.
- Will it impact purchase intent and sales?
- How important is global brand consistency to the organization?
A global brand name should be pronounceable in all languages and dialects, free of negative connotations and not confusingly similar to existing names.
In some cases localization of the logo (design adaptation) may be needed as well. The visual expression of a brand can be extremely powerful in a global context. People tend to recognize brands first by their design and second by their names.
For more information about international brand name evaluation, contact Anna@BrandedTranslations.com .
© 2012 Branded Translations.
Branded Translations is a specialized language services agency. We help organizations reach multicultural and international audiences through quality translation and transcreation of marketing and advertising communications. For more information, visit BrandedTranslations.com.