Brands like Nike have kept their taglines in Asian markets, while others like McDonald's have translated their tagline to different languages such as Mandarin in the Chinese market. The decision to keep a tagline or translate it depends on the target market and the unique circumstances in the local market. Some best practices for translating taglines to local markets include adapting taglines for the local market and using transcreation instead of translating the tagline word for word. Regarding perception, Chinese consumers love American brands, and some brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have been in the Chinese market for decades and have become part of consumers’ lives. However, the current strained political relations between the United States and China has led to a consumer shift towards domestic brands in China, and US brands don’t carry the same weight among Chinese consumers, many choosing to boycott US goods entirely. Detailed information is below.
Western Brands That Have Translated Their Taglines in Asian markets
- McDonald’s tagline “I’m loving it” is known by many people, especially in the Western World. The company launched the tagline in 2003 to help define its brand position and retain global customers.
- McDonald's localized its tagline for all 101 countries in which it operates so that it wasn’t just translated word for word into different languages, but instead was “localized to embody and express the same on-brand message in different locales.”
- Although the tagline fits perfectly into the UK and American English, it doesn’t work well in Chinese, and McDonald’s had problems when it tried to translate the tagline word for word into Mandarin.
- In China, people view the word “love” seriously and refrain from using it. The Chinese do not feel comfortable using the word loving, so a literal translation would not work. McDonald’s, therefore, decided to transcreate the tagline into the Mandarin phrase 我就喜欢 Wǒ jiù xǐhuān that literally translates to “I just like it.”
- McDonald's localized the tagline “I just like it” so that it was more in line with the Chinese culture to convey its brand message without making Chinese customers feel uncomfortable.
- When Pepsi decided to enter the Chinese market, it translated its popular tagline “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation” in Taiwan with unfavorable results. The brand ended up literally translating the tagline into Mandarin to mean that Pepsi “Brings your ancestors back from the dead!” According to The Standard, Pepsi tried to correct the mistake by switching to “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation.” However, this was translated as “Resurrect! Your body will be made of Pepsi!”
- This was not the first time that the company’s tagline hadn’t worked well. The Standard says that when Pepsi tried to enter the Chinese market in the 1950s, it had a difficult time as its tagline “Be sociable” was translated as “Be intimate,” and sales went down instead of increasing.
- Moreover, in the 1960s, the brand’s tagline “Now it’s Pepsi for those who think young” also flopped as it was translated as “New Pepsi is for people with the minds of children” and sales reduced even further.
- Pepsi seemed to never get over the translation problem, and the company has played second to Coca-Cola in cola drink sales.
- When the diamond company De Beers started advertising its diamonds in China, it initially wanted to use a direct translation of its English slogan “a diamond is forever,” which markets diamonds as a symbol of love and commitment.
- However, the tagline did not translate well into Mandarin as the Chinese would have confused the phrase to mean that “a diamond lasts forever” rather than the meaning the brand wanted to convey of a diamond being an item that someone would like to keep forever.
- The brand decided to transcreate the tagline into “钻石恒久远，一颗永流传” that literally meant “A Diamond That Lasts Forever, And It Will Last Forever" to indicate that it would be passed onto future generations. The tagline became a huge success as most Chinese like poetic language, and De Beers avoided embarrassment and confusion, increasing its market share in China.
- When L’Oréal entered the Chinese market in 1997, it decided to translate or re-write its tagline “Because You’re Worth It” into Chinese, to make it relevant and natural to the local audience. The brand came up with “你值得拥有” Nǐ zhídé yǒngyǒu, which is literally translated in Chinese as "You deserve to have it."
- Since then, L’Oréal has grown to become one of China's most loved and purchased luxury cosmetic brands. Sales of the L’Oréal brand in China grew by 35% in 2019. The country is the second largest market globally.
Western Brands That Have Kept Their Taglines in Asian Markets
- Nike’s tagline, “Just do it,” is iconic and recognized all over the world. However, according to K International, the company found that the tagline didn’t translate well into Chinese and chose to leave it in English.
- Nike uses Chinese supplemental slogans in addition to the tagline to convey the same message in culturally relevant ways. For example, the brand also uses the Chinese letters, 用运动 that roughly translates to “make sport” or “have sport.”
- Apple is an American multinational technology company that designs, makes, and sells electronics and software. It is headquartered in Cupertino, California.
- Apple's tagline "Think Different," is simple. Although the company does not use the tagline on most of its products, the phrase is used now and then in branding.
- Subway created its tagline "Eat Fresh" in 2000 to identify itself as a healthy alternative. The brand wanted to align itself with the increasing customer interest in the quality and transparency of ingredients.
- The company kept its tagline in Asian markets, and although the company does not use the tagline on most of its products, the phrase is used now and then in branding.
- Dell is an American multinational computer technology company that makes, sells, repairs, and supports computers and related products and services.
- The company's tagline is "Yours is Here". Although the company does not use the tagline on most of its products, the phrase is used now and then in branding.
Best Practices for Translating Taglines to Local Markets
Adapt Taglines For the Local Market
- According to Jimmy Robinson, co-founder, and director of PingPong, a marketing agency specializing in helping brands succeed in China, brands must adapt taglines to the local market. For this to happen, brands must have a proper understanding of what consumers in the local market are looking for.
- Even as communities globally modernize, Robinson says that Western brands should not “confuse modernization with Westernization.” Consumers in markets in Asia, like those in China, are unique with different tastes. Brands, therefore, need to ensure that taglines are localized and adapted for these particular markets.
- It’s important to ensure that when translating taglines to a target local language, the message is culturally appropriate while retaining its intended meaning and power.
- As per Vera Mirzoyan, an international marketing specialist at AIST Global, the brand should customize everything to the market the brand is introduced in.
Use a Localization Agency or Local Experts
- Another best practice for translating taglines to local markets is to use a localization agency. According to Branding Mag, localization agencies have the expertise to handle the localization and translation of taglines. A professional localization agency will provide insights into the target market and gather feedback on how the translated tagline is likely to be received locally.
- Localization companies that provide expert oversight may be costly. Brands could be expected to pay high premiums of between 20% to 50% for working with a top company, but these could help the brand avoid errors when translating taglines to local markets.
- According to Destination CRM, brands also need to collaborate with local experts as they understand the culture of the target market better and provide a unique perspective to ensure that the tagline resonates with the local audience. Localization companies can also provide examples of successful taglines in the area.
- Using linguists from the local area with broad knowledge and experience of the language ensures that the tagline is translated accurately.
Do Not Translate Word for Word and Use Transcreation
- A final best practice for translating taglines to local markets is not to translate it directly word for word. Most taglines contain catchy and witty words that may work for western audiences but may not work well or not at all for an Asian market.
- Burg Translation says that transcreation should be used to adapt the tone and style of taglines for local markets. Transcreation combines translation and creation to produce content relevant to the local culture and resonates with the local audience.
- The transcreation process considers how the concept should be conveyed to produce the intended emotion and how language and culture should be balanced with the message and brand. Transcreation recreates the same emotional appeal and impact in a tagline instead of just duplicating the original content.
- Translating taglines word for word may go wrong, like when Pepsi made a blunder with its tagline ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ that was literally translated into ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.’
How People in Asia Perceive US Brands
- According to Forbes, American brands enjoy healthy relationships with Chinese consumers. However, the popularity of homegrown Chinese brands is rising. Doreen Wang, global head of BrandZ at Kantar, states that many U.S. brands like Coca Cola and McDonald’s have been in the Chinese market for decades and have become part of consumers’ lives. US luxury brands like Tiffany & Co are popular in China because people perceive them as being representative of a certain social status or lifestyle, exuding class, and grace.
- However, “European brands are perceived sexier than U.S. brands in China because of the contribution of luxury brands from Italy and France.”
- According to Matter of Form, the strained political relations between the United States and China has led to a consumer shift towards domestic brands in China. Western Brands don’t carry the same weight among Chinese consumers and many are choosing to boycott US goods entirely.
- A recent survey by Deutsche Bank found that 35% of Chinese consumers would not buy products made in the United States, as the Coronavirus pandemic fuels mistrust among Chinese and American consumers about each country’s products.
- The Wall Street Journal says that the shift in favor of domestic brands in China started three years ago because Chinese brands started making better quality products and Chinese consumers became more sophisticated and less easily impressed with foreign names. Consumers now want brands that help them express their Chinese identity.
- Bain says that the global luxury market is steadily growing, led by a thriving luxury demand from Chinese consumers. Between 2015 and 2018, Chinese buyers' purchases in Mainland China “contributed twice as much growth as their spending abroad.”
- According to Mckinsey, some products sold in the Chinese market like cosmetic products and wine, "benefit from the perception that import means premium and, therefore, better quality." Another report by Mckinsey & Company states that young consumers "prefer foreign luxury brands, particularly those from France and Italy, closely followed by Great Britain, with Japanese and American labels also more appealing than homegrown luxury alternatives."
- Mckinsey's survey found that Chinese consumers neither prefer foreign or local brands because they cannot tell the difference. Consumers only look for the best product with no clue of who the manufacturer is.
Whether People Perceive Products as More premium/High Quality if They are in English
- According to Nielsen's survey, the primary factor that consumers in China consider when buying premium products is the superior quality of the product (61%). The other reasons are organic/natural ingredients (56%), exclusive series products (47%), sustainable products (49%), and socially responsible products (37%).
- Performance is another key decision factor for purchasing premium products as consumers buy products that can make them happy (67%) and those that can increase their self-confidence (62%).
- The expanding middle class in Asia associate British goods with quality and exclusivity. Research by Barclays Corporate Banking showed that “64% of consumers in India, 57% in China, and 48% in the UAE were prepared to pay more for UK-made goods because they perceive the quality to be higher. Also, around half (48%) of people under 55 surveyed said a product showing the Union Jack increased their likelihood of purchasing a product, compared to a quarter (24%) of over 55s. In China, this was as high as 73% in 25-34-year-olds.”
The Use of English Words Globally
- Around a billion people around the world speak English. The language is currently the globally hegemonic language and is used to carry out commercial transactions. English lends most terms to other languages.
- A study on the influence of foreignness and country of origin on consumer-based brand equity found that a brand with a name in English may be perceived more positively, and consumers may be willing to pay more for it. Moreover, messages about products originating in the USA may interfere with a consumer's decision on the brand's foreignness and usefulness.
- Consumers are more likely to pay a premium price because the foreign language brand may appear to be imported and have higher costs that force it to charge more. However, "foreignness did not have any relationship with perceived quality, greater knowledge, and brand loyalty in the study.
- The study concluded that foreignness does not seem to help a brand to be naturally more famous, nor does it signal greater quality or generate the motivation to buy more. The result demonstrates that its influence on brand equity is not generalized, but instead partial.