Translating any commercial material can be a much more difficult task than it seems to be beforehand. There are at least two important dimensions to take into account: (1) the translation should communicate the wanted message, and (2) it should be “catchy” from a marketing point of view. Any word-by-word translation won’t most likely meet both of these criteria.

An example of a successful translation project is the localization of the Coca-Cola brand into Chinese markets. Coca-Cola is called Kekou-Kele in China. If you try to pronounce that name, you’ll probably find out that it sounds quite a lot like the original brand. Also, the message of the Chinese brand name, which can be translated into “tasty soft drink” or “to be happy with the tasty”, is favorable to the company. Likewise, Pepsi-Cola has done a nice job in that same market with its Chinese name: Bai Shi Kele means something like “everything laughable” or “to be happy with everything”. Both companies have discovered very positive translations to their brands.

Which one is your favorite: Kekou-Kele or Bai Shi Kele?

One could even argue that in these cases the Chinese translations are much better than the original brand names. The name Coca-Cola refers to coca leaves and kola nuts, and  Pepsi-Cola is argued to be named after the digestive enzyme pepsin and kola nuts. Today neither of these brand names tell much about the product or arouse especially positive images when thinking only about the names; not the whole brand image. The Chinese names sound nice and positive even if you don’t know what’s inside the can.

What is the best product name translation which you have seen?