Jamie Sergeant of creative agency Crowd tells what he’s learned from launching successful brands in China – including their own.

China’s economy has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last 35 years, going from being one of the poorest countries to one of the richest countries in the world. It is migrating from an investment-driven model to a consumer-driven economic model. This presents a significant commercial opportunity for brands to invest in the Chinese market and reap the benefits of reaching such an affluent consumer market.

Even though there is room for more brands, Chinese consumers are not clamouring for Western brands. So how do you make a success of your brand in China? Here are some points to consider.

A culture shaped by its language

The Chinese culture is shaped by its language, which is totally different from western cultures. This means that most Chinese people may have different values and tastes from western people. Chinese people enjoy the process of finding out the deeper meaning behind words, therefore it is important that international brands take the time to thoroughly research a name that has a meaning aligned to their brand values.

It is a well-known fact that Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn, mainly because the pronunciation is not related to the writing. The same syllable can be pronounced with four different tones and each tone has a completely different meaning. Sometimes, even the same word may have different meanings when used in different phrases or sentences.

The visual identity

Strong cultural differences between countries can make launching a brand in an unfamiliar market a challenging task. Cultural barriers between the designer and an audience can often lead to misinterpretation and conflict. So, here are some tips on logo design and colours to consider.

For instance, our Crowd China logo is an example that you can adapt a logo but still stay true to your existing brand identity. We have introduced a couple of Chinese characters which add new meaning to our current logo. ‘Crowd’ in English refers to a team of people, helping brands grow a crowd.

The first Chinese character matches the ‘Crowd’ meaning in English: a group of people. The second character has four meanings: 1) talented people, elites; 2) the best part of an objective; 3) in ancient China, it refers to jade which is used to describe things that are beautiful and crystal; and 4) it means ‘Great Britain’. The combination of all these elements within Crowd’s Chinese logo translates to: a group of elites from Great Britain who can help brands grow globally.

Furthermore, the colour orange relates to creativity, wealth, passion and fruitful results in the Chinese culture. The colour scheme and the use of culturally suitable symbols reflect Crowd’s brand position.

Another example is the brand identity we created for Electropages, a digital content platform, for its launch into the Chinese market as BlackTech.

The new logo shows a good juxtaposition of western type forms and Chinese characters which speaks to both cultures. The colour black refers to something unknown and mysterious, just like the black hole in space. Black stands for maturity, trust and reliability – all important factors in the Chinese market. From the logo, the first two characters are translated as Black Intelligence, which refers to the most advanced technologies, and is a strong USP of the brand.

To successfully launch a brand in China, it is crucial for companies to look beyond the logo. They need to have a holistic understanding of the consumers and focus on the stories behind their brands. A culturally suitable name, colour scheme and typography are all elements to be considered when breaking into the Chinese market.

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