Linguistic considerations when localising brand or product names

brand name analysis

There are numerous examples of where brands have got it wrong when translating a brand or product name into a different language. We’ve shared a few of these mistakes on our blog in the past, no doubt raising a smile or chuckle at these translation blunders.

However for the companies and brands involved, it is no laughing matter. Instead it’s a lesson not to forget or ignore brand localisation when launching in a new global market.

What is brand localisation?

In this blog post I’m going to provide advice for localising brand names or product names.

However, this is just part of the process of brand localisation. To truly localise a brand there are many other considerations. These include understanding local cultural preferences and idiosyncrasies, for example some colours used in logos or brand imagery may have negative associations in certain markets. Or the tone or message used in a strap line might not work in the target market; it might play on emotive ideas that simply don’t translate, or the tone may be too casual or too strong.

Brand localisation explores all these variables to ensure that when a company launches in a new market the brand is adapted to local sensitivities.

It might even go as far as developing or adapting products specifically for that market. Fast food chain McDonalds is a good example of this. If you’re in New Zealand expect to find a Kiwi burger on the menu. In India you could try a Chicken Maharaja-Macs and in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries a McArabia.

These product names also demonstrate how brand names are localised for each market. Keeping the ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’, which is synonymous with McDonalds’ global brand, the product names blend cultural and language considerations with instant brand recognition.

Brand name analysis and localisation

At Comtec we provide brand name analysis services to help our clients understand how their existing or proposed brand names will hold up in each global market.

This is the first step in any brand name localisation project, to research the market and get a good idea of how much work is needed to localise the brand name for a new market. We use in market reviewers to do this. You could ask colleagues or associates in that country or region to do the same. However, it’s important to find impartial native speaking reviewers. If your colleagues are already exposed to the brand names or product names, they may be assimilated to them and will find it hard to give a balanced view.

The following key points need careful consideration:

General interpretation – what’s the first thought that comes to mind when your in market reviewers hear and read the brand name. Does it have a meaning? Does it conjure up any feelings or emotions?

Review all possible meanings – if it has a meaning, can it be interpreted in any other way? Get a clear picture of all the possible meanings associated with your brand name.

Negative connotations – clearly companies want to avoid any negativity around their brand and product names, therefore it’s crucial to review for negative or controversial associations.

Existing names with a similar meaning – is the name similar to brand names already used in that market? Whether it’s similar sounding or has a similar meaning it could cause confusion, have a negative association, or there could be trademark concerns.

Pronunciation issues – how does the name sound in the local language? Many people in the UK mispronounce global brand names like Ikea and Lidl, what effect does this have? Some names might be very difficult for someone in another market to pronounce, and therefore they might avoid saying them.

Phonetic similarities – what other local words sound like it? Your brand name may not have any direct translation, but does it sound like another local word? This might have positive connotations if the local word means something that is related to the brand values. Or it could cause confusion or reflect negatively on the brand.

With this information you will now be in a much better position to avoid a translation blunder or find a suitable alternative brand or product name for that market.

If your company requires any support with brand name analysis please get in touch, we’d be delighted to offer further advice or provide you with a quote for our translation services if required. Call me on +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email