Brand Name Localization and Translation

For most businesses, there is no escaping globalization, and for some, this means that brand name translation can be a problem. With the fast movement in the international market, it is difficult for businesses to keep their competitive edge and vie in the local market as well. For new businesses especially for those that are planning to go global, it is vital to think of brand names that can be effectively used in any language, because it is traditional not to translate a brand name. Of course, there are brand names that have to be reworked slightly so as not to offend consumers in the target locale.

Brand name translation

In order to successfully have a global strategy for a brand, business owners have to depend on translation and localization. Advertising products in the local market is essential for product distribution, awareness and adoption.

It is also vital that companies apply for patents for their brand names, colors, logos and other specific elements when they enter the global market. But these steps should be thought out carefully because there are other considerations that could affect your patent application.

Localization of a brand is very vital in international marketing and the process of translation and localization plays a major role in marketing internationally. The one question that needs answering is how good the brand name will translate into the languages of the different target markets.

Marketing localization

Localization has been touted numerous times as the way to go if a company and its brand want to conquer new and foreign markets. It means translating and adapting websites and other company and product information to the target market.

But aside from website localization, another thing that is vital to a brand is marketing localization. Localization is defined as a process that integrates translation as well as transcreation so a message will be able to adapt to a particular culture.

When it comes to marketing, localization is needed in order for the brand to perform better within the international market.

Localization is not a simple project and marketing localization is the same. It is more involved and extensive, as the process means adapting not only brand colors but also the advertising messages.

Brand performance is vital to international market success. Companies have to understand that in different cultures, words and concepts have different meanings and significance. If a company does not adapt its marketing messages with the normal perceptions of the target consumers, it can result in low performance and aversion to the brand.

When developing a marketing localization strategy, a company has to consider how the brand name of the service or product will seamlessly transition into a different culture. This has a bearing with your intention to protect your right to the brand through patent applications. You have to make sure that you hold a patent to a product name that will sell globally. Otherwise what good would a patent do if your product name cannot sell?

Localizing a brand name

For start-ups that are thinking of expanding their products internationally, it is essential to carefully deliberate on the name of their service or product when they are creating their business strategy, to ensure not only a seamless transition into the foreign market but also to ensure that the brand will work well, whatever the target languages may be.

Even established brands that have been present in many global markets have to tweak their brand names or undergo some translations that are market-specific to ensure success.

Some of the things to consider when localizing a brand are the following:

  • The audience reaction to the brand name
  • The potential meaning (s) of your brand name
  • Negative connotations of your brand name
  • Similarities of your brand name with other brands or products
  • The sound of your brand name

Aside from the cultural appropriateness of the brand, marketing localization also considers how the brand name is written as well as how it is pronounced.


One example is the German candy brand called ‘Toffifee.’ In order to preserve its German pronunciation, the brand used ‘Toffifay’ when localized into English. Not only that; tweaking the brand name ensures that the spelling of the brand name is as close to the original German name as possible.

It may look odd to German-speaking customers who are living in English-speaking countries, but from a marketing communications’ perspective, it makes sense.


When Pepsi entered the Argentinian market, they learned that speakers of Argentinian Spanish had difficulty in pronouncing ‘ps’ which is part of the soda brand’s name. The brand would have a difficult time in penetrating the market if the consumers could not pronounce its name, thus the company made the decision to rename their product for the specific market. In Argentina, Pepsi is named ‘Pecsi.’ The change in the name not only improved brand recognition but also increased their sales.

In these two examples, you can see how important localization is in helping companies and products perform better in foreign markets.


Sometimes, a brand has to have a complete change of name to successfully penetrate new markets. In the brand name translation strategy for Sprite, a soda product, when it entered the Chinese market, it made a complete transformation. When localized, Sprite became xuĕ bì. In Chinese, ‘xuĕ’ means snow while ‘bì’ translates to blue-green. The combination of these two words connotes ‘freshness’ as well as evokes the product’s packaging.


Another successful brand localization is KitKat, and it became a huge hit in Japan. Localization takes care of many aspects of a product, from information, physical attributes, names, pronunciation and even business approach. KitKat was modified to fit the local taste of Japanese consumers. While the product sales in other countries are all right with just three flavors – white, dark and milk chocolate, in Japan, the brand introduced a variety of flavors, and some of these flavors might not be readily acceptable to Western consumers.

The translators and the company understood the distinctiveness of food culture and cuisine in Japan. They wanted something savory rather than just sugar and sweetness. In order to satisfy the Japanese palate, KitKat introduced other flavors such as wasabi, soybean, matcha green tea, chocobanana, strawberry cheesecake, lemon, purple sweet potato, apple vinegar, sweet corn, sakura, grape and ice cream.

The brand also changed its slogan for the Japanese market, using ‘Kittu Katsu,’ which means ‘Surely Win’ in Japanese. Matcha Green Tea Kitkat even has two formulations. The more bitter-tasting green tea flavored KitKat is sold all over Japan, while a milder version, which is less bitter, is sold at airports for those people who want to bring them home. Matcha Green Tea KitKat is now very popular and sought-after by consumers outside Japan.

Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC

Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC successfully entered the Chinese market by changing their business approach. When they first opened in China, KFC was patronized because the consumers perceived it as a novelty since American fast food was not known to the Chinese market during Chairman Mao’s time. However, interest in the food waned so the Chinese managers of KFC tried another approach.

Instead of following the U.S. business model, KFC China focused on giving their consumers a dining experience. They understood too well that food was in the hearts of Chinese consumers, so instead of just selling food, they altered their menu to fit the preferences of the local audience. Aside from fried chicken, they added Chinese-style food such as congee, egg tarts and other ways to serve fried chicken as well as pork chops.

The decision to localize for the global market

The only way for many companies, including start-ups to succeed internationally is to carefully consider their global marketing strategies, which include brand and marketing localization. You have to consider many factors before you can come up with a definite decision.

The original name and the product itself are things that need to be carefully considered, as well as other factors. When doing brand localization, you need to address pronunciation, changing the brand name or re-branding.


Chevrolet, for example, had a difficult time when they introduced Chevy Nova because it failed in the Latin American market. The company failed to know that ‘nova’ in Spanish means ‘no go.’ So who would buy a car or truck that would not move?


Department store chain Target once launched flat-heeled sandals branded as ‘Orina.’ Originally, Orina is a Russian word that means peaceful or peace. However, it does not sound very good in Spanish, which is the second-most spoken language in the United States. Orina, in Spanish means, ‘urine.’ However, Target was quick to remove the in-store signs for the shoes as well as their description from their website. Moreover, they decided to rename the shoes.

Implementing localization

To successfully create a brand for the global market, it is wise to implement localization. Adapting your brand to different target markets looks difficult. It could be the opposite path of what you previously did to establish your brand. But when you consider the culture of the international market, you do have to adapt to what the global markets require. The process includes working with a professional and an experienced localization company.

Global brand name localization entails not only translating information. It involves linguistic evaluation of your brand name, which you can do with the help of linguists who are experienced in the entire localization process. In some cases, there is no need to localize the brand name, only the taglines and other advertising messages. At other times, global brand name localization may involve the slight tweaking of the brand name, while in extreme cases, it could mean changing the name, in order to ensure the brand’s successful performance in different target locales.

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