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When one is interested in creating a service for the masses, and thus wants to reach an international target, a decision has to be made whether to follow a so called "ethnocentric" approach when it comes to the brand name or a "poly/regio-centric" approach where a different brand name is used for each country or region.

Since the internet user is globalizing every day, it would make sense to create a global brand. An obvious example would be Google.

My question is, how does one think of such name that has the "perfect" balance between brandability and "catchyness" for the biggest target markets, in this case continents of the world?

Some issues here:

  • If something can be pronounced and memorized in one culture this may very well not be the case in another.
  • It seems rather difficult to "test" a certain idea

Note that this is not meant for a specific project, it is just me expressing general curiosity on how one would approach this problem.

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2 Answers 2

Regarding pronunciation, I think you can safely go with English and ask e.g. a German to check it. The reason is, I think you can't really create a single word for Westerners and Asians. That's just too much to be done unless you are a specialist in Asian languages (though Dune gives a sweet precedent of cross-cultural language use). With any luck, if you've got a real hit, Japanese will spell your name their own way (something like 'Googeru'), and Chinese may call it whatever as long as they use it, their market is so huge it'be a blessing if you can get there.

So, what remains is Americans vs. Europeans. You might want to be sure to not accidentally make a rude obscenity in Italian for example. I think, just avoid obscure words like those Hamlet might spit, and you're done, because these days, just about everyone speaks English and doesn't relate common English words to any local similar-sounding slang or damnation. You might ask one person from each of several countries and go with it.

That said, when doing visual and interaction design, you really should hire a specialist in cultures you're targeting, there are just too many obscure nuances to be aware of.

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This is a tricky question. The reason being that there is not one correct answer.

Different folks have a different approach. For instance, Google has no relation to their flagship product which is search or find.

On the flip side, Twitter does have relation to the product. Twitter as in tweeting or chirping thus the product. It's brandable yet it defines the product itself.

Same goes for Facebook or Thefacebook as it originally started. The concept is to stay in touch with your connections through your identity and what better way to define your identity than your own picture, thus the name Facebook.

To answer your concern about global brand, there is no set rule. The idea is that once the brand (or the product behind the brand) gets momentum, it automatically captures the mindset of the global audience.

The best way I usually come up with a brandable name is by using the following method:

a) Come up with a few brandable names which defines the product you are working on.

b) Ask your friends and family members about the first thing that comes to their mind when you tell them about the brandable names. Go through the entire list of names you came up with.

c) Give them a brief idea of what the product is about and/or what the product you are working on will do and tell them to define it in 1 word.

This usually gives you a very narrow and precise list of ideas to get going and you can sort of refine the name from there on.

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Hi Adil, the problem with such approach is that it's limited to your direct relations. In other words, it ignores cultural barriers. –  Tom Apr 2 '11 at 8:24
    
@Tom: I see but you have to understand that global audience means multiple cultures and not really restrictive to one culture or some cultures. At some point you have to step out of the approach where you are focusing on cultures and go after the product itself. You are better off with a product and how it serves a culture or connects with a culture than the other way around. –  Adil Apr 3 '11 at 0:21

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