Selling in the East: what to know before launching your Brand in China

Every company that gains success in the west market sooner or later dreams about selling in the East and specifically in China. Compared to the past decades, positioning your brand in the Chinese market is easier as it’s plenty of Digital and Training agencies which help international companies to:

  • understand the Chinese culture and how it’s developing
  • understand what Chinese consumers are looking for
  • manage social media
  • help finding a suitable and effective Chinese name for a brand

If you want to do business in China it’s extremely important to make a deep research on the culture as well as on the language. This approach is undoubtedly valid for every country in which a company wants to start selling products or services but not as much as for China.

Jerry Clode, an expert of Chinese culture and founder of The Solution (an agency which helps companies to understand Chinese consumers), says that China’s society is not yet completely modern compared to the West and this is due to social – economic elements. For example, millennials in the West got some understanding of luxury brands and products from their parents but this didn’t happen so far in China. Chinese millennials just started to understand through their own life experiences what is the history behind a luxury brand. This is why an international brand has to explain and educate Chinese consumers regarding what they want to communicate with their brand, what’s the idea behind it.

Another difference of the Chinese culture compared to the West culture is that Chinese people want to have a great shopping experience all the time and it must be shared on social media. Chinese place a high value when the moment to share a product on social media comes and they expect from brands to be bombarded with information related to that particular item they just saw or bought, which alternatives are available, different use etc..

Having your personal data collected by Brands is not a bad thing for Chinese consumers as for West consumers. On the contrary, they are happy to share data because, analyzing the shopping behavior, Brands can propose tailored products and, as mentioned before, a better shopping experience.

Chinese are optimistic about what life can offer and they expect Brands taking them to a next level, a better living. Chinese want to optimize their life, there is a huge focus on living amazing experiences through shopping and international companies can do that through their brand’s stories.

Regarding the language skills, it is not essential to have someone in the team who speaks Chinese as there are many foreign companies which get support from Chinese agencies helping them with social media but the most important thing is to find the right name for a brand. What is essential to understand is that Chinese language is based on characters and not letters and that every character means something. For example, if a Chinese buys a product with the name written in Chinese, what he sees is not just a name on the packaging but he/she actually sees symbols, stories.

Having a Chinese name for international brands is really important as:

  • it helps to protect the IP (intellectual property)
  • it helps to maintain the brand position in the market or help it grow
  • consumers will be able to collocate that product or brand in the Chinese culture

The importance of having a Chinese name is strictly related to connection and engagement with brands through social media. If you want your brand to be part of Chinese people conversations then you need to make it easy for them to clearly understand what the product is about and why it’s different from competitors’ products. Differentiation is important in order to avoid confusion, your name should not be similar to other brands which are part of the same category.

What is going to happen if a company uses a foreign name? It will be difficult for Chinese people to identify themselves with the product and for this reason they will find a nickname that surely will not bring justice to the brand. The risk is having two different brand identities, one in the West and one in the East.

What is going to happen if you literally translate the brand name? Chinese names are often a translation or transcription of the original brand and it is made up using similar characters that sound and remind of the original brand name. Unfortunately this is not the correct path to follow as Chinese consumers may not know your brand in the first place so they will not recall it at all.

In conclusion, having someone locally who is a Chinese semantic expert is highly recommended as most people in China speak Mandarin but there are also other languages spoken, like Cantonese, as well as many dialects. Ideally your brand should have characters that can be understood or have similar meaning in most Chinese regions.

Useful links to know more about this topic:


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