The bumpy road for brands launching into China
Recently Airbnb Co-Founder Brian Chesky announced via Twitter that his company has a new Chinese name; ‘Aibiying’. Aibiying is a clever localized brand name which sounds like the Western original, but translates in Mandarin to “to welcome each other with love”.
Or so went the press release.
It turns-out the translation has not gone down so well with the Chinese market. Creativity-online.com reports; ‘There was a backlash on social media, with critics saying the new name is hard to pronounce and doesn’t make sense. Among the nastier commentary, one said the name sounded like a “copycat porn company.” (The second character of the name sounds similar to slang for a female anatomy part.) A user of microblogging platform Weibo wrote, “My god. Better to have no Chinese name at all.” One of our own staffers, who’s native Chinese, observed, “The name looks like some cheap Chinese mattress or clothing brand,”‘
Getting your branding right in China is notoriously difficult. We’ve published a number of articles on the subject written by our friends Adsmith, a China-based agency who specialize in helping brands launch into the Chinese market (links below). But this failure has nothing to do with a lack of effort or understanding of the challenge Airbnb were facing. Brand consultancy Labbrand had tested over 1,000 possibilities to come up with the Chinese brand name – and they are specialists in naming brands for the Chinese market.
There are a few lessons we can learn from Airbnb’s Chinese marketing mishap:
• Branding mistakes in China can happen to even the most marketing oriented brands;
• They can happen even when you engage the right people and give due consideration;
• China remains a tough market to crack; and the old chestnut
• It’s not about how you stuff-up (because all brands will at some point) – it’s about how you respond when you do.
Here are some links to our previous articles on localizing brands for China:
The four biggest mistakes Western brands make when entering China
Seven tips for launching your brand in China
The ten most critical considerations for brands launching into China
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more at…
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