A name to kill for

Coming back to my earlier topic about naming brands and the semantics of words, I’d like to thank Florian not just for keeping his eyes peeled and continuing to ‘think marketing’ many moons after attending my course, but also for sharing this example with us.

Clean, safe hope for GermansOver in China, Florian spotted a shower gel pack that many Germans will be familiar with. Knowing a good bit of Chinese, he wondered how the name of Seba (pictured right) would be translated into Chinese.

The temptation would have been to use a phonetic equivalent, something in English phonetics like ‘serba’. But as any Chinese person will tell you, anything that sounds like the Chinese si ([sə] with a schwa sound in a falling and rising tone) rhymes with the number four and ‘death’. So the brand could easily end up meaning 死吧 – or ‘go die!’.

But they did their homework. They translated it into ‘shiba’ which means something like ‘grant hope’.

And it’s excellent, consistent branding. Any German would recognise the colours and brand signals in an instant. Whether they’re being told something nasty or not in Chinese. And a lot better done than “fit me”.

Alex Woodruff

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