Annabel Kelly reports on the implications of the language barrier in China particularly when it comes to the development of a logo.
Excluding Hong Kong, less than 1% of the Chinese population speak English. There are close to 300 living languages in China but most (70%) speak Mandarin. With thousands of unique characters and the same symbol or word meaning different things depending on the tone, verbal or written context that it is used, Mandarin is ranked as one of the hardest languages for an English speaker to learn. With the potential for confusion, even among natives, puns are abound in China as is the incidence of bloopers in poorly translated marketing communications.
Swedish baking equipment manufacturer Sveba-Dahlen retained TIO China (AKK Research's creative partner) to position the company for the Chinese market. Before developing collaterals such as brochures and a website, the first step was to develop a name and logotype that was both true to the brand and made sense to its target audience. Phonetically, the new Chinese name sounds like the original Swedish name, even to a Western ear. Visually, the first three Chinese characters represent strength and unbreakable quality with the final character representing energy. The new Chinese name not only sounds the same as the original but its visual presentation is aligned with the brand’s positioning.