Skip to content

Branding Usability and Localization

Many businesses throughout the world spent a lot of time and effort to create their brand experience that embodies their product/service yet is unique and easy to remember. And when the companies are ready to launch their brand to the global market, determining the treatment the brand name in each country will be one of the most important tasks of all.

With the proliferation of innovative and advanced technologies to facilitate communication and shorten the distance across the world, many start-up companies already have their global market expansion in mind from the very beginning when they are creating the brand name. This advanced planning can accelerate global brand expansion and extension. The key to successfully create a global brand name, or to ‘globalize’ an already established brand, is to check potential brand name usability in each locale through a professional linguist.

Branding and Localization

It is true that when the original brand names are short and simple, it is sometimes a good choice to keep them as is instead of translating them. Companies like Sony, Google, Intel, they have kept the same name in multiple countries. But as each country, culture and language is beautiful and unique in its own way, it will be incorrect to assume the same name will be appropriate or the best options for all target locales. Some of the best examples are companies such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, and PizzaHut branding localized into Chinese.

The Chinese branding for Coca-Cola is 可口可樂 (Simplified Chinese is 可口可乐 ) The direct translation for the first two characters  可口 is “delicious”. The last two characters “可樂” mean “able to enjoy”. In addition, this term has become official translation for “Coke” for all brands. This great branding localization not only has positive meaning, but just like its original brand name, is easy to pronounce and hard to forget. This branding also enhances their advertising effectiveness and tagline creativity. Another great example is “Sprite”. Its Chinese name is “雪碧” (Traditional and Simplified Chinese share identical characters). “雪” means “snow”, and “碧” is either an adjective or noun for blue or blue-green. This combination brings the feeling of icy-coldness and freshness, and the meaning of “碧” also resonates for its green packaging. The pronunciation of the Chinese brand is also very similar to the English name. For more information regarding global branding, please check out our previous blog Tips for a Truly Global Tagline.

There are also some not so successful branding localization examples. Often it’s the lack of localization that can be harmful to the brand or make the company/product a laughable subject. Therefore, whether you decide to keep original branding or already have localized brand names in mind, checking the usability is vital and necessary.

Here are some suggestions to check your current brand usability:

  1. Direct translation and transliteration (if possible) of the target language/locale: you would want to see the meaning of your original brand for your target market and make sure it has no negative impact. Transliteration, meaning phonetic translation in this case, is also important, especially for the Asian market. Transliteration can make or break your branding in other countries. It is also a good idea to ask the linguist to perform a reverse translation back into the source language and expand on the meaning, if necessary.
  2. Level of difficulty in pronunciation: Certain words or letter combinations are difficult to pronounce for people speaking certain languages. Mispronunciation may also  be a cause for misunderstanding.
  3. Profanity check: it goes without saying that you don’t want to appear to be vulgar and offensive as it will not draw business to your brand.
  4. Similar brand names in the target language/locale: great minds think alike. Unfortunately, you might not be the first one to come up with this wonderful brand name. If there are other brand names similar to yours, you would want to find out how and where they are used as your brand name might be confused with theirs.
  5. Notable results found in commonly used search engines: you never know what is going to pop up, especially if your brand name is an acronym. When your potential customers are searching about your company/service/product, they will see those search results as well.

Keep in mind that even though some countries speak the same languages, but they still have different dialects, slang, or terms specific to each locale. For that reason, the check should not only be done per language, but per target locale. Also, don’t forget to check your URL, logo, and taglines.