As one of the hardest-hit industries during the global COVID crisis, across the world, the hospitality industry faces a long road to recovery. However, in China, the hospitality industry has already bounced back, having experienced year-over-year growth already by the autumn of 2020, with strong numbers going into 2021. How can foreign brands take advantage of China’s healthy hospitality industry amidst a global hospitality industry downturn?
A major hurdle for any brand entering a foreign market is localization. This entails having a deep understanding of the culture of the market you are trying to appeal to. By nature of the field, successful hospitality companies must resonate with the aspirations of their home market. To replicate this success outside of their home market, hospitality brands must ensure their brand identity feels at just as home in a new cultural context as it does back where it was born.
First impressions are vital – for consumers this comes from seeing or hearing your brand name for the first time. The translation of your brand name will set the tone for all future interactions with your local market. “Transcreation” is a term used to describe the process of creating new meaning out through transliterations – bringing new meaning into a new context from an old idea.
With Chinese being a glyph-based system as opposed to the alphabet systems of many other languages such as English, brands often have to come up with creative transliterations of their names when entering the Chinese market.
For example, when the American sandwich franchise Subway entered the Chinese market, it chose the name 赛百味 (sài bǎi wèi). Not only is it a phonetic match, but the last two characters mean “hundreds of flavors” in Chinese, hinting to Chinese customers of the customization potential of its sandwiches.
Another hospitality industry example would be the Marriott Hotel chain. Taking a different route and dropping the phonetic match altogether, it took on the Chinese name of 万豪 (wàn háo) meaning ten thousand wealthy elites, situating it perfectly in the Chinese luxury market.
Not only is the transcreation process important for the name of your brand, but also for slogans. Many companies have learned the hard way that direct translations of their slogans don’t translate over into Chinese. For example, KFC’s finger lickin’ good slogan was initially translated into “eat your fingers off”.
Localized Brochures and Menus
Those who have spent any time in China and eaten at local restaurants undoubtedly have seen their share of laughter inducing and sometimes bewildering English translation bloopers. As a foreign brand moving into the Chinese market, make sure your menu and brochure translations into Chinese don’t make these same mistakes.
For the hospitality industry, localization helps ensure that your brochures and menus are specific in their language, using the correct lexicon and up to date terminology. Especially in Chinese cities with less international influence, strong localization helps customers understand what exactly it is they are seeing on the menu, even if it is something they’ve never encountered.
Blogging and Articles
We all know that China has a wholly different set of social media and ecommerce infrastructure than the West. For example, email, while ubiquitous in the West, is used by less than 40% of those online in China. That means mailing lists and other digital marketing strategies reliant on email are just not effective in China.
WeChat, however, is ubiquitous in China. Localization services help you format your blog and article content to match the platforms used for digital marketing in China. Understanding the myriad other popular social media and ecommerce platforms and how to optimize your content for them is a vital part of any localization strategy for entering the Chinese market. Hospitality brands should be looking to top social media and social ecommerce platforms such as Little Red Book, Douyin, and Weibo to establish a strong local digital presence.
In addition, blogs and articles can make use of transcreation in helping your audiences better understand your brand background and context. Content tailored for the local market provides a sense of connection and care for local customers, a crucial goal for businesses in the hospitality industry.
Just as your home market isn’t a monolithic demographic, neither is the new market your brand is entering. By learning to differentiate according to the local market’s different demographic segments, your digital marketing campaigns will feel native to customers.
In China, the cultural demographics split along city tiers, with first and second tier cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou being much more international. But that doesn’t mean lower tier cities should be ignored – the economic might of these third and fourth tier cities is rising as China’s economy expands.
First and second tier cities in China tend to have more international influence, with residents being more open to more Western lifestyles and tastes. They have more exposure to international brands, larger expatriate communities, and higher incomes. This also means they have more experience and are more discerning about international trends than their counterparts in lower tier cities. The rising purchasing power of the fast-growing middle class in lower tier cities is a market that is a demographic that should not be ignored.
In addition, with China’s economic growth being a relatively recent development, there are also major generational differences to be aware of in the localization of your brand identity and digital marketing content.
The success of foreign brands entering the hospitality industry of China will rely heavily on how well they can localize in the fast-paced Chinese environment. Choosing a strong partner for localization and digital marketing services is essential to make your brand feel like home for Chinese customers.
HI-COM is a multilingual translation agency dedicated to providing professional translation and interpreting services to companies all over the world. Working in over 40 languages, HI-COM is the localization partner for hundreds of companies and brands. Contact us today for your free consultation!