Brand Names in China

Coca Cola China, Chinese
Coca-Cola is undoubtedly one of the world's pre-eminent brands; if you've ever taken a marketing course, there's a pretty good chance your first day began with a PowerPoint slide about the soda's ubiquitousness. Given their branding mastery, one would expect Coca-Cola to have a clever Chinese brand name, and they most certainly do. The best brand names retain some of the original's phonetic resonance while still conveying the brand message - Coca-Cola accomplishes this brilliantly with the name 可口可乐 (kěkǒukělè), which sounds a lot like their English name and can be loosely translated as “let your mouth rejoice,” a perfect name for a bubbly, tasty soda.
Microsoft is also one of the world's best-known brands and must've had a pretty sizable Chinese name translation marketing budget, because their Chinese brand name is one of the best around. 微软公司 (wēiruǎn gōngsī) isn't a great phonetic match for its English counterpart, but the literal translation works smoothly: 微 means "small" (Micro-) and 软 means "gentle" or "flexible" (-soft), and 软 is part of 软件 (ruǎnjiàn), the Chinese term for software, Microsoft's key product. They did have some difficulty when rolling out their Bing search engine in China, as "bing" is most commonly associated with the word 病 (bìng) which phonetically sounds great but means "disease" in Chinese. Bill Gates and co. eventually sorted it out, however, settling on 必应 (bìyīng), which works quite well phonetically and translates as "always responds", a great choice for a search engine.
We must admit that we have a favorite brand name translation, if only for the sheer simplicity and effectiveness of the choice. Tide, the detergent brand famous for keeping your whites white and adorning racecars, is known in China as 汰渍 (tàizì), which is a great translation based on phonetics alone. The literal translation, however, is "to get rid of dirt", which is precisely what the product does, cementing 汰渍 as one of the cleverest brand translations out there - some even credit Tide's hefty markety share to the name choice.

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