Edited: January 17, 2018
Posted: March 6, 2018
Our approach to creating a Chinese name for your brand can be boiled down to two steps: (1) boil the ocean so to speak to develop an exhaustive list of names, usually in the number of thousands to tens of thousands; and (2) rank order the names from the best to the least based on your unique branding criteria.
So, the first step is broad and the second narrow. People who are easily distracted and all over the place can often create interesting directions for the first step. Super productive and laser focused people generally don’t do so well. The reverse is true for the second step. Different skills are required for different stages. This is the reason naming is harder than you would think.
Let’s assume you already have a short list of 10 names. In this article, we want to share one of our exercises to help you rank the order of names. This can be useful not only for ranking names but also for other areas of your life that can benefit from better prioritization.
Whether you do it yourself or hire experts, the following is a process to go through and a skill that can benefit you throughout your life.
How to prioritize Chinese name candidates to meet branding criteria:
You have 10 Chinese name candidates. The names need to meet two key criteria: 1) Meaning resonates with three brand promises, and 2) pronunciation close to the original English name. You want to rank order them from the best to the least so they can be sent for trademark screening.
The following is a method to rank order your Chinese name candidates.
You can do this as a team or each team member does their own prioritizing separately and then everyone brings this together as a team, laying out all the sheets to compare. Generally, it’s better to do this individually first and then come together as a team. Some people have great ideas, but are not as comfortable in speaking up. This allows all voices to be considered, both vocal and quiet.
We’ve created a PDF that you can print out and cut into 14 cards: 10 cards each for a particular Chinese name candidate, three cards each with one brand promise, and one card indicating pronunciation criteria.
We abbreviated three brand promises as B1, B2, and B3; pronunciation criteria as P.
You’ll rank order the 10 names according to how they resonate with each brand promise and resemblance to English pronunciation.
You’ll rank order these names four times: three times for three brand promises and one time for the pronunciation.
The final ranking is based on all the rankings combined in one way or the other, as we’ll further explain below.
Since pronunciation is relatively the easiest and most straightforward to rank, let’s start with this. This will give you some practice and what it feels like when you subsequently rank the names.
You rank pronunciation by placing a pronunciation (P) card, the one you want to focus on, on one side and the stack of 10 names on the other side. Put all other cards face down so you don’t get distracted by them.
You then rank order each name according to how closely it seems to the English pronunciation of your brand name. Write the rank, with 1 as closest to the English pronunciation an 10 as least close to the English pronunciation. On each name card fill in “P ____.”
Repeat the same process for brand promise 1. This time you want to rank order the names according to how they resonate with brand promise 1. After you’re done, write the rank, most as 1 (1st place) to least as 10, on each name card on “B1 ____.”
You might find it hard to come up with an absolute ranking among the names. You can make it easier by first roughly placing or grouping names that are similar in ranking.
Then go back and compare two or three names at a time to fine tune the order.
Make sure you don’t think about other brand promises. Only focus on the one at hand.
This is why we want you to use cards, so that you can focus on one thing at a time. It is very important to do this right.
Then look at all the names in your ranked order again and fine tune if necessary.
Write the rank order number down on each card. The first place is 1, the second 2, etc.
Another way to do this: Look at the brand promise card and look at the name cards.
Think about it this way, if this is the only brand promise you consider, and you can only select one name from the deck, what’s the name you’ll pick?
Then put that name aside, repeat the same process to pull out one name at a time for the rest of the names.
One more way to do this is to put one name down. Then compare it to the other names to see whether it’s more or less appropriate than the one you are considering.
You can also compare and rank two names at a time. And then compare resulting names 4 at a time.
After you finish the first promise, shuffle the cards and repeat the same process on brand promise 2 (B2) and then 3 (B3).
On each name card, add the scores of B1, B2, and B3 and write it on “BT ___,” short for Brand Promise Total.
Rank order the names according to the BT score, from lowest to highest.
Write 1 on the first card on “M ___”, short for Meaning Criteria Ranking, 2 on the second, and so on.
On each name card, add the numbers of M and P and write it on “MP ___.” This number allows you to rank names according to the meaning and pronunciation criteria, assuming both criteria are equally important.
On each name card, add the numbers of BT and P and write it on “BP ___.” This number allows you to rank names according to the meaning and pronunciation criteria, but this time brand promises are weighted as more important than the pronunciation: Meaning 75% and pronunciation 25%.
Attached are our results, but your team should also do this exercise and determine your own prioritized list.
Pros and cons of this approach:
This is not a “perfect” way, but actually there’s no perfect way. The two assumptions of this method is that from one rank to another has the same distance. This is not always the case.
Another method is to assign a score to each name, e.g.: from 1 to 10, 10 being the best or closest to a criteria. The actual practice problem is people often have a hard time assigning scores and might end up will all the scores somewhere in the middle.
The above ranking method forces you to create absolute ranking/prioritization.
For the brand promises, ask this question: Do they have the equal importance or is one more important than the other?
Also, how important is the resemblance in pronunciation to the English name? As important as the meaning, 3 brand promises (B1, B2, B3) combined as a whole, thus 50-50? Or 25% importance as important as one of the 3 brand promises?
Besides branding criteria, you might also want to consider and rank names based on how memorable a name is, how easy to pronounce, how fast, or slow, it sounds, etc.
How to prioritize Chinese name candidates to meet branding criteria
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