Key Points of Naming for Overseas Markets

The Secret to Successful Localization! Key Points for Naming Products and Services for Overseas Markets

July 25, 2016

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Key Points of Overseas Naming

Localization projects require a variety of things to be translated, such as websites and catalogs. However, what must not be forgotten in that process is the naming of products and services. It is necessary to decide whether to adopt the product names and service names applied in Japan for use overseas, or instead to create a new name. Let's take a look at the key points for naming that will prevent the failure of localization.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of "So That's What It Meant?"

When using a Japanese product or service name overseas, it is necessary first to determine whether there are any other words with the same pronunciation as the name, or any local words with similar pronunciation. If there are similar words, it is necessary to check the meaning. If the meaning is unpleasant or not appropriate for the nature of the product or service, it would be wise to consider a different name.

If we are not native to the region in question, it is difficult to determine how the word will sound to people locally, or what meaning or nuances it may have. In addition, slang and other expressions not found in dictionaries are usually only known by native speakers, so it is necessary to have a few local native speakers check as well. It would also be ideal to have it reviewed by a naming and trademark specialist.

A real-life example is the fermented milk-based beverage "Calpis" sounds similar to "cow piss," so it is marketed as "Calpico" overseas.

If a company is considering entry into the markets of multiple countries, it needs to check these matters in each of the applicable languages. Even if the company is currently only looking at a single country, it would be safer to investigate the languages of multiple countries in consideration of the future outlook and product image.

Local Confirmation of Registered Trademarks

It is also important to investigate whether the intended name has already been registered as a trademark in the target country. When first considering naming, other countries are usually not checked even when a trademark was checked in Japan. When thinking about new naming for overseas markets, you should look into this matter beginning when the name is first brought up as a candidate.

In the past, there have been cases in which a name was already registered as a trademark in China, such as the major Japanese department store "Takashimaya" and the well-known "arita-yaki" porcelain. Companies take a hard hit when they are unable to use a name for which they have put time and effort into establishing an image and increasing recognition as a brand. It is important to check on this and register trademarks as soon as possible.

Moreover, in some countries the part that registered a trademark first is given priority, and in some cases it is the party that was actually using the trademark first. For example, actually use is given greater weight in the United States. Be sure to take measures that are appropriate for the target country. It's difficult to know the trademark registration procedures for every country, so the surest method is to utilize a trademark specialist.

Don't Forget Ease of Reading and Brand Image

It is also important to select names that are easy for anyone to read and pronounce. A simple, easy-to-read name is best if you want people to remember it and become familiar with it. Having a native speaker check the ease of reading and pronunciation is the surest way to confirm this.

You should also pay attention to making sure the naming matches the brand image for the company and the product lineup. Although this is not limited to naming for overseas markets, brand permeation is easier if there is some type of consistency or uniformity. For example, Apple Inc. utilizes the letter "i" or the words "Apple" or "Mac" at the beginning of the names the company gives to its products, thereby making them uniform. This consistency has the benefit of making it easier to retain the image of the product or service when creating new names.


The growth of the Internet has enabled marketing through a variety of media such as websites, social media, and blogs, thereby lowering the hurdles to overseas expansion. In that context, the meaning of names is significant, even affecting the company's brand image.

In the future, it is necessary to recognize the importance of naming in the midst of escalating competition, and not only avoid naming that has inappropriate meanings, but also strive for naming that is easy for people of any country to read and communicates the brand image.

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