Chinese Brand Names

We know Coca-Cola as Coke. But do you ever wonder what that translates into in a foreign country? Is Coke, one of the greatest brands alive, still Coke in another language? Today’s Chinese class revealed that Coke is translated as “可口乐可”(ke  kou ke le) which means litterally “something palatable from which one recieves joy,” or something along those lines. How much better of a translation job can you get? The characters both sound like Coca-Cola in English AND have positively reinforced literal translation meanings of the joy one receives when drinking Coke. (more specifics here)

To me, the tricky translation of brand names is fascinating. How do you get build a brand in a foreign country? Coke clearly did it (although, admittedly Pepsi’s current advertising far outpaces Coke in China) and did it well. It’s apparent that deep cultural and linguistic awareness is one of the key elements to adapting to a new part of the world.

On that note, I think I want to take a Chinese sociolinguistics course in the Spring.

Note: Another great translated name: Middlebury College is “明德大学”(ming de da xue). Award for the first Chinese student who can tell us what that means!

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4 thoughts on “Chinese Brand Names”

  1. Don’t forget the follower, Pepsi Cola…in Chinese “bai shih ke le” which literally means hundreds of things from which one receives joy! Ah… branding is such fun.

  2. I was impressed with Midd’s Chinese name.

    明德学院:
    明:英明,开明
    德:德行,美德
    So it could be roughly translated to wise and gracious…and ming de sounds like Midd. It is great isn’t it?

    It is a better translation than Harvard(哈佛),which has absolutely no implication!

    The award should be given to the Midd Professor who coined the word Ming De.

  3. 明德
    明:英明,开明
    德:德行,美德
    So it can be roughly taken to mean wise and gracious.. and ming de sounds like Midd. It is a great name, isn’t it?

    It is a much better translation than Harvard–哈佛。which has absolutely no connotation…

    the award should be given to the Midd Professor who coined the name Ming De.

  4. Actually, the professor that started the Midd program (and gave it it’s name) was from Princeton, I believe. Him and Prof. Burninghausen (Bai Laoshi) founded the program 30 years ago.

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