Things to Consider when Localizing for China

China – Think .cn

The first thing that probably strikes you about China is how big it is. In fact, The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has the world’s largest population – about 1.4 billion people, and yes, that’s billion with a “b.” To put this in perspective, the US has a population of approximately 328 million. China is also number one when it comes to internet users – more than 800 million. So, when it comes to international marketing, localizing for China simply cannot be ignored.

China – Think Mobile

The majority of Chinese internet users only access the internet through their smartphones. What this means is that your mobile website or app can make or break your marketing efforts in China. Because of this dependency on phones, many Chinese choose their phone numbers as their user names. What’s more, scannable QR (Quick Response) codes are widely used. To read more about QR codes and how to make and use them click here.

The Great Firewall of China

China’s firewall effectively blocks social media platforms like Facebook. US companies can host their websites within China, but a license is required to do so. One major company that does this is Apple. To get around this difficulty, many Western brands partner with Tmall, China’s Amazon equivalent. For instance, Costco relies entirely on Tmall for its sales in China.

China – Think Travel

Rising income levels mean that more Chinese than ever are traveling overseas. According to the China National Tourism Administration, residents of China traveled overseas on 131 million occasions in 2017. This number is significant to the hotel industry and Marriott, for example, has gone all out to attract Chinese guests with its Li Yu (Serving with Courtesy) program. Marriott caters to Chinese travelers with localized enticements such as hotel associates who speak Mandarin, complimentary Chinese tea, newspapers and TV from China, room numbers that include 6 or 8 (considered lucky), payment via AliPay, and customer service via WeChat (a Chinese mobile app with over a billion users).

Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese

As part of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese simplified their written language to improve literacy by making it easier to learn. This was accomplished by removing certain characters and strokes from the more than a thousand characters of the traditional language. However, if you plan to localize your site or app for Taiwan or Hong Kong, you should understand that both of these regions continue to use the traditional language.

Localizing for China is Tricky

Even the big guys have been tripped up when translating their brand names and slogans phonetically into Chinese. Here are a few examples:

  • Coca-Cola was converted into a Chinese phrase that meant Bite the Wax Tadpole. The company ended up marketing its product under a name which didn’t sound as much like Coca-Cola but had the much more appetizing meaning of Can Mouth, Can Happy.

  • Pepsi’s English language slogan Pepsi Brings You Back to Life made a grand debut in China as Pepsi Brings You Back From The Grave.

  • KFC found that its Finger-Lickin’ Good slogan was transformed into the cannibalistic sounding Eat Your Fingers Off.

  • Mercedes-Benz used the brand name Bensi when it entered the Chinese market. Unfortunately, Bensi means Rush to Die. Not the impression Mercedes wanted to create.

Localizing for China

These examples are perfect demonstrations of why you need a localization service that understands how to localize for China by translating your content into Chinese that makes sense. Look no further than Localize. We can draw on our network of translators who can provide the highest-quality Simplified Chinese translations to help your marketing campaigns succeed in China’s vast market. So why not contact us today for more information.