What should you know when choosing a business name in China and the UK?

We provide expert advice on choosing the right company name for your business in China and the UK, which is tied to your brand identity and reputation.

This series focuses on the trade angle between the UK and China. Every week we’ll add a new video that answers some of the most frequently asked questions about setting up a business in China and the UK. Each video answers the same questions from a Chinese and UK perspective.

Key insights will be provided by Maria Kotova, UK Business Development Manager and China Market Entry Director at Dezan Shira & Associates, and Lisa Gui, Deputy Director at HW Fisher.

If you have any questions about doing business in China or the UK, contact us at UK.Ireland@dezshira.com.

When starting or expanding a business in international markets, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is choosing a business name. This name will be associated with your brand and how customers perceive your business. In China and the UK, there are some things you need to keep in mind when selecting a business name. In our latest series of videos, we discuss what you need to know when choosing a business name in China and the UK. We’ll also provide you with expert advice on how to choose the right name for your business.

Episode 7: What should you know when choosing a business name in China and the UK?

Choose a business name in China

When choosing a business name in China, it is important to consider the following:

  • Every company in China has its unique name and should be in Chinese.
  • A business name is a brand identity and is used to market a company’s products or services.

As a company’s reputation grows worldwide, it is wise to consider the meaning of a company’s name in each local market and in some cases create a local name for different consumers. In China, this is especially important because the meaning, sound, tone, and even appearance of the Chinese characters you choose for your business name can affect a brand’s reputation.

Three ways to choose your Chinese brand name

Create a literal translation

A literal translation works when the mark has a distinctive meaning. For example, Apple chose the brand name “Ping Guo” (苹果), which means “apple” in Chinese. Similarly, Palmolive is known as “Zong Lan” (棕榄), a combination of the exact translation of “palm” and “olive”.

The downside to this method is that the Chinese characters will sound different from your original mark. This means that marketing time and money will have to be spent on building the association between your Roman character mark and the Chinese character mark.

Create a phonetic translation

A phonetic translation involves creating a Chinese character name that sounds like your brand. Pinyin is the official Chinese phonetic alphabet that uses Roman characters, which can be used to create transliteration. For example, “McDonald’s” is known as “Mai Dang Lao” (麦当劳) by local Chinese consumers. “Siemens” is known as “Xi Men Zi” (西门子), “KFC” is known as “Ken De Ji” (肯德基) to locals, and “Audi” is known as “Ao Di” (奥迪).

This method is best when your brand already has a reputation with Chinese-speaking consumers. However, care should be taken when choosing a phonetic version of a foreign mark, as Chinese characters may have an undesirable meaning in one or more of the six major Chinese dialects.

Combine literal and phonetic translation

The best brands are those that sound the same and also refer to a defining characteristic of your brand or have a positive meaning in Chinese culture. For example, after considering hundreds of combinations of the four syllables that make up its name, Coca-Cola finally settled on “Ke Kou Ke Le” (可口可乐), which means “to taste and be happy.” The German brand ‘Fuchs’ which in German means ‘fox’ is translated into ‘Fu Si’ (福斯) which translates to ‘good luck and blessing’.

Whichever method you choose, it is recommended that you hire a professional Chinese-speaking expert to ensure that the Chinese characters you choose do not have negative connotations.

In 2017, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) introduced the Company Name Prohibition and Restriction Rules, which prohibit companies from registering company names that authorities consider “strange”, too long, politically sensitive or imitating existing brands.

Choosing a company name in the UK

When choosing a business name in the UK, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It is essential to determine that the name has not already been taken. HW Fisher recommends that when choosing a company name, the entity have two to three additional name options.
  • The name should be unique and not too similar to other businesses in your industry. You may need to change your business name if Companies House deems it too similar.
  • A business name cannot be offensive or contain a “sensitive” word or phrase.
  • The company name should generally end in “Limited” or “Lrd” for a limited liability company, unless you are a registered charity or limited by guarantee.

See more of the series

Episode 6

How to Define Scope - China versus UK

Episode 5

The Importance of Trademark Registration in China

Episode 4

Episode 3

Video chat on opening a business bank account in the UK and China

Episode 2

office premises requirement when registering a company in China and video chat in UK

Episode 1

company holding structure - China and UK - video chat

About Us

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors in China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Please contact the company for assistance in China at uk.ireland@dezshira.com.

Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, USA, Germany, Italy, India and Russia, in addition to our business research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative . We also have partner companies helping foreign investors in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

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