Epic Fails and Epic Win entering Chinese market

Why is so important to choose the Chinese name for your company

In case you didn’t notice, Chinese has no latin alphabet. At a certain extent, we could say that has no alphabet at all. All Chinese words are written exclusively with Chinese Characters and this means that your company has to be registered in China with a set of Chinese characters. At the same time, it is strongly suggested that your products and logos have a Chinese translation.

The Epic fail of Airbnb

Air BnB had been active in China for some times now, but it is only from last month that is has a Chinese name. While it certainly is a good thing in theory, the poor choice of characters caused a huge backfire from the netizens.

epic fail Airbnb

We need to remember that each character has a particular meaning and the one you put in your company need to be chosen with great attention. The Chinese name Airbnb choose is 爱彼迎 (Aibiying) which meaning should be “to welcome each other with love”. At least based on the tweet of Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb.

The reality is that Chinese users think it is difficult to pronounce and, more importantly, it sounds too much like a cheap porn company. This is also because “bi” has the same pronunciation of the female genitalia and when you put it together with characters meaning “love” and “welcome” it is the recipe for a disaster.

Finally, it also sounds too similar to 艾滋病 aizibing, which is AIDS. You can understand why this name fails on so many levels (and one more that we will see later).

The Epic Win

Generally speaking, when you want to talk about a good choice of characters for the Chinese translation of a company name, two come to mind: Coca-Cola and Nike.

Both companies have a translation that sounds like the original name, but also great hidden meanings.

Coca-cola, in Chinese 可口可乐 kekou-kele, literally means “happy and tasty”, which is perfect for a soft drink.

The Chinese name of Nike is 耐克, which means “conquer, endure”. A good goal for every athlete!

Not only the name

On the other side, you should also take into account colors.

In China, each color has a particular meaning and red is the color of happiness, money, and luck. This is also why Coca-cola has such a strong appeal to Chinese consumers. On the other hand, Airbnb commercial displayed a pink logo a color often used to indicate prostitution. Once again: a real Epic Fail for Airbnb.

Entering the Chinese Market without a professional help can be very challenging. This is why we are focusing on helping Startups to enter this market thanks to the China LAB program.

A few days ago we also launched ISIC, a new project aiming to link Italian Startups with Chinese Stakeholders.

If you want to avoid Epic Fails in the Chinese market, join ISIC. Subscription is free and the deadline is up to Monday 24th April (23:59 CEST).

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