Choosing a distinct and well-considered Chinese name for app or business can both protect your IP and make it easier for Chinese users to connect with your brand and product. A smart Chinese name for your company and/or app will be more comfortable for Chinese users to search for, read and speak.
There are many stories of foreign companies unknowingly creating odd and damaging Chinese names for their businesses. Mercedes-Benz’s first Chinese name was “Bensi” which was translated as “rush to die.” Best Buy’s trademark used the characters for “best” (百思) with the direct translation of the word “buy” (买), but together can be read as “think a hundred times before you buy”.
Some strategies to come up with a Chinese name for your company/app:
Phonetic translation: Creating a name that sounds like the original Roman character trademark when spoken aloud in Chinese. For example, McDonald’s is known as “mai dang lao” (麦当劳), KFC is “ken de ji” (肯德基), and Audi is “ao di” (奥迪). Once again, you want to check that the characters do not translate into anything undesirable in any of the country’s dialects.
Literal translation: Apple Computers trademarked “ping guo” (苹果), which is Chinese for “apple”, and Palmolive (zong lan – 棕榄) is the direct translation of “palm” and “olive” together. Both companies could legally trademark these otherwise generic words because they are selling computers and soap respectively – not produce.
Combination of both phonetic and literal translation: This is an extremely common practice in the country: Add the sound of the Roman character name to either a trait of the brand or a positive Chinese cultural reference. Coca Cola (ke kou ke le – 可口可乐) literally means “taste and be happy”. BMW (bao ma – 宝马), meaning precious horses, reads its initials as BM in China. Starbucks (xing ba ke – 星巴克) combines “star” with the purely phonetical sound of “buck” and has no other special meaning.
One you choose a Chinese name for your company, we strongly recommend you register for a trademark in China to protect it. China is a first-to-file country, so there is nothing stopping another person from registering your name first, even if you have been using it longer. Even if you have an international trademark for your company already, it does not protect you in China.
Chinese android app stores do not require the name of your app in the app store listing to match any trademark – only the name registered on your Software Copyright Certificate (SCC) and (in some cases) the title as embedded in your APK. This means you could use a different name for your app in each app store, depending on your goals.
When choosing your title, keep in mind:
Your target market: Are you already a well-known brand in China or worldwide? Is your APK on the Chinese android stores meant to reach non-Chinese users as well? If so, you may choose to list your app with a combination of your Roman name and Chinese name. This ensures that English-speakers can also find your app and feel confident that it is the official version.
For example, Airbnb titles their app “Airbnb爱彼迎” in China. Microsoft office’s products are so well-known that they are listed in Roman characters as “Microsoft Word”, “Microsoft Excel”, etc.
Keyword SEO and ASO: If your app is a companion to a product (such as a smart watch), this is less important, as your customers will usually access it directly through a link, QR code scan, or direct search.
But if you want users to find your app when they search for its category or function, it’s helpful if a relevant keyword or two are also present in your title name, because keywords derived from the titles are heavily weighted.
Because Google Play is blocked in China, you will need to distribute your app on at least 15 of the top Chinese android app stores to reach China’s 1.1 billion android users. AppInChina can provide this service, as well as localization, payment, and user acquisition. To learn more, click the button below.