Why Groupon China's Brand Name is Great

Sat, 03/26/2011 - 01:41

What's in a brand name?

A brand must represent a company's image in the mind of consumers. It must be memorable. It must 'sound right'. It must suit the cultural context in which it is perceived.

For brands with a global presence, it is usually the case that the localized brand name should be easily recognizable as the localized version of the original brand name. This is done so that marketing messages given in different languages all add to the brand equity. In the case of Chinese consumers, they won't only see the Chinese brand name, but might also be exposed to the English brand name. Even though the Chinese brand will be promoted in China, they'll likely see the English brand name on the Internet, in movies, on TV, etc. For this reason, we usually want the Chinese brand name to easily be identifiable as the localization of the English name. Know what I mean?

The problem is, that can be really, really tough to do! Many English sounds cannot be fully realized in Chinese. Combinations of words and components cannot be fully translated. It may be difficult keeping the Chinese brand name brief while maintaining meaning. Seemingly simple translations may result in awkward wording or awful cultural faux pas.

Localizing a brand name into Chinese in such a way that it flows both with the original English name and with Chinese culture is a tricky thing to do and is properly handled by a team with expertise in marketing and localization.

Groupon's Chinese Brand Name is Excellent

Groupon China's Logo From Gaopeng.comGroupon chose the brand name 高朋 (Gaopeng) for China. Here's why I think this is an excellent name:

  • "Gaopeng" sounds similar to "Groupon". For those that don't read pinyin, Gaopeng sounds like g + "ow" as in "ow, I stubbed my toe" + p + "ongue" as in "ow, I bit my tongue too". The "r" in Groupon is very difficult to use in Chinese and it's almost always a good idea to stay away from using an "r" sound in Chinese brand names. In choosing a Chinese name that sounds like Groupon, the optimal choices could be represented as G + vowel + (p or b) + (vowel + ng).
  • The meaning of Gaopeng is very suitable for their business. "Gaopeng" is part of the Chinese idiom "Gaopeng Manzuo". This can be translated as meaning "filled with distinguished guests". For example, if a restaurant is "gaopeng manzuo", it is full with lots of good customers and making a lot of money because of it. Pretty good match for Groupon, isn't it? Another way of looking at the name is character-for-character, in which case "gao" means "high" or "great" and "peng" means "friend". A downside to the name is that "Gao Peng" could be perceived as the name of a Chinese person, rather than a business name. There are people named Gao Peng in China.
  • The name simply sounds good. For all the fancy-shmancy technical stuff, you can't ignore the gut feeling of potential Chinese consumers. If you're making a brand name for China, make sure it feels right to Chinese people - and I mean Chinese-Chinese people - people that were born and raised on the mainland. To me, "Gaopeng" just sounds right.

Interestingly, the second half of the idiom, "manzuo", is in use by Manzuo.com, one of Groupon's competitors in China.

As a disclaimer, I'll have to mention that I didn't research the brand name Gaopeng nearly as carefully as we do when doing professional Chinese brand name localizations at Nanjing Marketing Group. I certainly could have missed something. For example, I didn't search to see if other businesses are using the "Gaopeng" name or do any survey on the opinions of Chinese consumers. The opinion on the Gaopeng name wasn't a team effort either, it's just my personal view. When choosing an actual brand name, it's always essential to consider the viewpoints of multiple people.



I always think that translation gets more and more interesting as the length of text gets smaller. When translating anything more than a sentence, there tends to be leeway to move things around quite easily. For slogans, you have to maintain elegance, meaning and cultural significance. So I think company names that may only include a few syllables are a fascinating case-study for translation.
Thanks for the write-up on Groupon -> 高朋, I hadn't seen that one before. It does some to be one of the better company name conversions into Chinese. The ones that stick out in my mind are Google, which seemed to go entirely for sound with 谷哥, and Microsoft which did the opposite and went entirely for meaning with 微软.

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