From Gan Bei (Cheers) to Hangover – Chinese Lessons from Wine

Why you need to get your Chinese branding in order early

From the 1990s, Chinese started to embrace wine, especially red wine, which is seen as a prestigious gift – a way to show knowledge and share hospitality and status.

French wine led the way and the Chinese were buying up French chateaus, but Aussie wines started to capture the higher end of the market from early this century. A great example is Penfolds, which found its way into China in 1995. With a clever translation of its name “benfu”(奔富), or “racing to wealth”, it became popular with Chinese as their fascination with wine grew.

In 2009 a “squatter” in China registered this Chinese brand name and so began a 10 year fight over the name.  China operates a first to file trademark registration system. Treasury Wine, which owns the Penfolds brand, started its legal challenge in 2012 and finally won the rights to the mark in 2020. 

The lesson Chin has been passing on to clients during this time has been to tread carefully before introducing products in Chinese markets (here and in China) and to take early action to both devise and protect Chinese brand names. Penfolds may be the most frequently quoted case, but we have been witness to others and they are generally extremely expensive to mount.

Names are all important in Chinese. An English name will not cut through and as China is the most popular jurisdiction to do business in, good names are increasingly hard to come by. Over 30 years, we’ve created some memorable ones – the Australian government brand for the World Expo in Shanghai stands out (and it continued to be used for a decade).

From food and wine to WeChat accounts, a Chinese name can make or break.

The Chin team is highly skilled in Chinese branding and urges its clients to consider a name right at the start of the journey and to secure the valuable real estate both online and social.

For more information or guidance, contact our branding experts at Chin


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