Situation: Expansion into the Japanese market
Date: May 2009This Banking Group was named after its founder, and several bank executives with experience of the cultural sensitivities of Japanese market sensibly decided to check out the company name. The objective being to check how commercially safe using the Bank’s name would be in the target market of Japan.Brands and Borders has over 1,000 respondents based worldwide. Our respondents are naturally all target based, well-educated and have a strong linguistic background. We advised the client that at least five Japanese-based respondents would be required to fulfil this disaster check.The check was completed within 48 hours with each respondent making the same comment. Three of these making the same strenuous observations. It seemed that like many parts of the world there are undesirable elements within our societies and so it is in Japan. There is a reclusive hill tribe based in the northern part of the island who might be loosely described as ‘miscreants’ – they have over the years acquired a very unpleasant local name which when spoken had a market similarity to the name of the Bank. It wasn’t when said in English the Bank’s name in itself that was the issue but when intonated in Japanese the language inflections bought it much closer to being associated with a very undesirable class of people.
The fundamental point arising here is that a brand may seem to be absolutely fine when read or printed in a foreign market but when it came to the spoken word gave rise to very undesirable or down right unpleasant connotations.
Knowing this, the bank were able to make some subtle changes to its name which were re-checked by ourselves. This enabled the bank to move safely forward with their international expansion plans.
Please note that some dates and other details have been changed to protect client confidentiality. The project objectives however are accurate and true.