Language is very often one of the first stumbling blocks for many businesses entering new markets, hoping to make their brand popular.

A brand is used to identify and distinguish a business, product or service.

Companies must communicate their brand values effectively in new markets, and yet maintain the consistency and essence of their brand image.

In the world of content localisation and translation, it may be easier said than done to localise a brand name, convey the same meaning and not lose its original spirit.

It is even more challenging when trying to communicate a brand’s emotional values in a foreign language. This requires getting across the brand’s personality and positioning with precision, ensuring the best use of words in that language.

As studies have shown, consumers often make purchase decisions based on a product or service’s emotional rather than functional values. Conveying this is arguably even more important than conveying its functional values. It is also critically important to take into account local beliefs (including taboos), religions, trends and cultural context for new markets.

For example, in Japan, the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky numbers. Buildings often do not have floors labelled fourth or ninth, and residents may even avoid the numbers in conversation, because the Japanese words for them sound a lot like the words for “death” and “pain”.

Similarly, in Chinese culture, the colour red is considered good luck and is often used as a corporate colour for company logos, product packaging as well as brochures.

Brand anew

As a business expands globally, maintaining brand consistency across markets may not guarantee the desired results. At such times, it may not be such a bad idea to localise an international brand instead of relying on a “passive” translation process.

Renaming a brand to something specific to the local market can be a value-add process as it provides an opportunity to recast the brand in the new market, and create a unique global-local image that enhances the original brand equity.

Global corporations like Pepsi Co, Starbucks and Nestlé are already creating market-specific brands, and sometimes even products, to take advantage of local preference.

For example, Pepsi is Pecsi in Buenos Aires because “Pecsi” has been the regular order of its locals for decades. Starbucks had to change the name of their Gingerbread Latte in Germany to Lebkuchen Latte before it sold like hot cakes — the German name for the flavour of gingerbread is “lebkuchen”.  Nestlé, too, came up with a 3-in-1 coffee for China to make it easier for Chinese consumers, who are mostly tea-drinkers, to try out its coffee.

Rebranding or introducing products based on market segmentation — not just between countries, but also by areas within large countries such as China — brings a host of advantages:

Brand value and identity: Rebranding, gives the company an opportunity to design for its target audience. The process allows the company time to study its market, get feedback through focus groups or surveys, and develop or modify its brand to suit the market, complete with a go-to-market strategy. This:

* shows the company cares enough to speak the local language;

* allows greater product differentiation to meet local consumers’ needs; and

* gains greater identity with the local audience.

Production or service efficiency: Communicating brand values is just part of the challenge. With wider reach across different markets comes the need to localise corporate and marketing material, sales kits, packaging, manuals, and so on. Market-specific rebranding, or product or service introduction, allows these materials to be developed in-market. This:

* Removes the need to provide product information in multiple languages;

* Allows addressing of local idiosyncrasies, and eliminates communication errors;

* Ensures proper usage and safe handling of products by local consumers; and

* Lowers production costs, and reduces the need for service recovery campaigns.

Edge over home-grown brands: All these local brand, product or service advantages strengthen the brand’s competitiveness against local products or services.

While introducing localised products is easier to implement, changing a company’s brand name is a huge undertaking. However, the change is worth considering if the company is to make a greater impact in local markets. The brand redefinition and repositioning could just be the initial and brightest spark that propels the company to success.