名称的含义? / What’s In a Name?

名称的含义?

近日,第六届“财富CEO峰会”连续第二年在厦门召开。

以往的商务大会通常以一连串的讲话为主,但现在已演变成系列专家对话。除台上的嘉宾论坛外,餐会、茶歇等非正式场合也会发生一些有价值的对话。

我和卡特彼勒公司全球副总裁兼卡特彼勒(中国)投资有限公司董事长陈其华先生就进行了一次有趣的对话。

卡特彼勒是我公司的首批客户之一,还是在上世纪70年代中后期,卡特彼勒着手从香港办公室开发中国内地市场时,我就对它非常了解。

后来,卡特彼勒加入最早一波在北京设立办公室的美国大公司。我还记得曾拜访过他们设在国际俱乐部的第一间办公室,那里临近老的友谊商店。当年,国际俱乐部、北京饭店、友谊宾馆是跨国公司中国总部扎堆儿的地方。

陈其华讲述了卡特彼勒如何在中国将全球公司文化与本地企业文化相融合的故事,内容引人入胜。其实这是大多数大型跨国企业在中国都曾经历过的缠斗,也是中国企业海外扩张将要面临的巨大挑战。

卡特彼勒的成功令人瞩目,《财富》(中文版)将持续予以报道。而我个人也因从中国改革开放初期就与他们相识,所以对他们的故事也抱有特殊的兴趣。

回忆上世纪70年代在中国旅行时,我常会看到“工业学大庆,农业学大寨”的标语。

或许卡特彼勒的成功也可套用一下这句口号——“国际化学卡特彼勒”。

陈其华还和我谈起跨国企业文化在接驳本地市场时所面临的文化和语言困境。这本身就是一个深刻而复杂的问题,但我们还是就其中一个侧面——品牌——交换了看法。

尤其是将国际品牌转换(而不是直译)成能够恰当反应品牌和企业价值的本地语言模式,就更不容易,而且一旦出错就是毁灭性的。

记得在中国发展出口事业的初期,中国公司开始向海外推广品牌,其中很多出口广告都使用了品牌的汉语拼音。

我敢肯定这对他们来讲是顺理成章的事,因为品牌名称都使用了“外国”的拼写字母,而不是汉字。

但问题是中国以外的外国人大都不熟悉汉语拼音,特别是“q”、“x”、“i”等(对他们来说)十分奇怪的拼写组合。所以,他们看到的只是乱成一锅粥的字母,而不是朗朗上口、过目不忘的品牌。

幸运的是,这股潮流很快就寿终正寝了。

《财富》(中文版)即将迎来20周年纪念日,为此我一直在追忆当年。在1996年杂志正式出版前,我们曾花费两年时间进行市场调研,如今我对此感到十分欣慰。

当时我们纠结的问题之一就是杂志的中文品牌。直到上世纪90年代中,中国的全国性媒体大都习惯地将我们的杂志翻译成《幸福》杂志。“幸福”对应的英文可以是“fortunate”(幸运的)或“happy”(幸福的),更多与运气相关,而非经济上的成就。

如果采用这个译法,好处是它至少在中国已有一定的品牌认知度。

但不利的是,它并不恰当。因为“Fortune”(财富)明显意味着财富和经济上的成功。

最终,我们决定以“财富”命名,并于1996年正式发刊。事后看来,我很庆幸我们选对了名字。

估计现在中国也很少有人能记起《幸福》杂志了。

陈其华还分享了几个卡特彼勒产品名称落地时遇到的类似问题:既要保留本义,又要适合语境,这是一个极其微妙的过程,经常会引发热烈的内部争论。

公司在这方面需要具备跨文化经验和理解力的人才,就像陈其华这样的领导,以及他所培养和管理的团队一样。

What’s In a Name?

Our 6th annual Fortune China CEO Summit was recently held for the second year in a row, in Xiamen.

Business events such as conferences used to be primarily a succession of speeches. Now they are a series of expert conversations. Apart from the conversations among panelists on stage, there is valuable dialogue on the side, during meals, coffee breaks, etc.

One interesting conversation I had was with Chen Qihua, Chairman of Caterpillar China and Vice President of Caterpillar Inc. (the latter is a global role).

Caterpillar was one of my company’s first customers, in the mid- and late 1970s, when they began to develop the China market from their Hong Kong office. So in those days I knew them well.

Later, they were among the early wave of large American companies to open offices in Beijing. I recall visiting that first office. It was in the International Club building, near the old Friendship Store. This location, along with the Beijing Hotel and Friendship Hotel, was where most international companies’ China headquarters offices were located in those early days.

It was fascinating to me listening to Chen Qihua describe the step-by-step approach which Caterpillar has taken in China towards blending a global company culture with a local company culture. This is something which the majority of large global companies have struggled with in China. It is also a big challenge Chinese companies are facing as they are expanding abroad.

Caterpillar’s story is a remarkable success, and one which Fortune China will be reporting more on. It was especially interesting to me because I knew them in the early days of the China market’s opening.

I recall in my travels in China in the 1970s, I would see many slogans saying: “In agriculture, learn from Dazhai”; and “In industry, learn from Daqing.”

Caterpillar’s success might merit a slogan such as “In globalization, learn from CAT.”

Chen and I also talked about the cultural and language issues embedded among the challenges of adapting a global company culture into a local market. This is a deep and complex subject in itself, but we exchanged notes on one aspect of it, which is branding.

Specifically, the challenge of adapting (direct translation is not enough) an international brand into a local language version which appropriately reflects brand and corporate values. Not easy to do, and mistakes can be very damaging.

I recall that in the early stages of China’s export boom, Chinese companies began advertising their brands overseas. Many of them used Hanyu Pinyin brand names in their export advertising.

I’m sure to them it seemed sensible, because the brand names were written in “foreign” alphabetic characters rather than Chinese characters.

The problem is that the vast majority of foreigners outside China are not at all familiar with Hanyu Pinyin , especially its strange (to them) combinations of “q”s, “x”s, “i”s, and so on. So, instead of a readable and memorable brand name, they got a bowl of alphabet soup spilled on them.

Fortunately, this trend was short-lived.

Since Fortune China is celebrating its 20th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on the early days. We spent about two years doing market research before the launch of the magazine in 1996, and I’m very pleased that we did.

One of the issues we wrestled with was the Chinese brand name for the magazine. Up through the mid-90s, the most common name used in China’s state media for Fortune Magazine was “幸福杂志–xing fu za zhi.” “Xingfu” can be translated as fortunate, or happy, but more in the sense of luck than financial success.

On the positive side, this brand name had a certain degree of recognition in China.

On the negative side, it was not as appropriate a brand name for Fortune as “财富杂志–cai fu zazhi”. “Caifu” clearly connotes wealth, and financial success.

In the end we decided to go with “cai fu”, starting with the launch issue in 1996. In hindsight, I’m very glad we did.

I doubt if you could find many people in China today who would recognize the name “xingfu” magazine.

Chen Qihua shared a few examples of localizing Caterpillar product names which involved similar challenges: keeping the basic meaning, but with the right connotation. This is often a very subtle process giving rise to lively internal debates.

That’s where companies need talent with deep cross-cultural experience and understanding: leaders like Chen Qihua and the teams they train and manage.


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