Repsol is
“Rui Shuo Neng Yuan”
in Mandarin

Over the past few decades, China has become a market full of opportunities for foreign companies. It’s a market that’s extensive, diverse, and changing — but most of all, it’s booming. It is in this context that Repsol has adapted its brand to Mandarin Chinese, as part of the company’s new geographical presence. Pilar Núñez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity at Repsol, and Nick Anson, Senior Account Manager at the agency Interbrand, which has collaborated on the project, tell us about the work.

The opportunity to adapt the Repsol brand to the Chinese market “was first noticed by the lubricants business, one of our most international businesses which has the most experience marketing our products in China,” explains Pilar Núñez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity. Other circumstances added to this, such as “the purchase of Talisman Energy, with which Repsol bolstered its presence in Southeast Asia. In fact, our regional office is located in Singapore (where they speak Mandarin Chinese), and of course there’s Repsol’s Chemicals business, which is increasing its presence in China thanks to the agreements being signed with companies in this country,” she says.

“The opportunity to adapt the brand to the Chinese market was first noticed by the lubricants business.” Pilar Núñez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity at Repsol

Adapting to China has been a tricky business. Pilar says that “we are a powerful brand at the global level with our MotoGP sponsorship, which gives us international brand recognition, but in China we had to start out as newcomers. The great thing about that was we got to start from scratch and had the opportunity to grow,” she says.

Nick Anson, Senior Account Manager at Interbrand, agrees that this is no easy task. To be successful, it’s necessary to emphasize the values and characteristics of companies that are better understood and more meaningful for people in China. “There are many companies that reinvent themselves in order to fit in here,” this professional explains. If a company wishes to adapt to the Chinese market, he believes it’s essential to:

  • Know the consumer. “Understand what they’re like, their interests, their culture, their mentality, how they relate to products. China is a land of many contrasts, with enormous cultural and ethnic diversity.” Nick also tells us that values have to be communicated in a way that seduces the consumer and sets the brand apart.
  • Understand the unspoken rules. Punctuality, protocol, looking at the person you’re speaking to (and not the interpreter), and knowing a few words in their language are some signs of respect that will always be well received.

“The opportunity to adapt the brand to the Chinese market was first noticed by the lubricants business.” Pilar Núñez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity at Repsol

But to make yourself known and open up a niche in the market, building the name of the brand is crucial. Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 1.2 billion people and uses thousands of characters, sounds, and associated meanings. One of the strategies for social and cultural adaptation is to translate the brand in such a way that it makes sense in Chinese, but remains phonetically similar to its Western version. As Pilar Núñez tells us, this is one of the most complex parts of the process. “In Chinese you don’t have letters, only characters, which means the word Repsol in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. Fortunately, the company has a very rich corporate ideology, and when we began we used a common project which had previously been created. We explained the vision and strategy of our brand to Interbrand, as well as the cultural values and core ideas we wanted to stand out. That was the base.”

 

After a demanding joint effort with Interbrand, “we made a transliteration that summarizes who we are as a company, while also creating a brand in Chinese that sounds like the word ‘Repsol,'” Núñez says. She tells us that the conceptual part was the most interesting, as they learned that there are some concepts which are acceptable in China but not in the West, and vice-versa. “We didn’t want to disguise ourselves, but we did wish to use poetic concepts based on legends, which are richer in content and based on Chinese culture.” And that’s how Repsol has ended up as Rui Shuo Neng Yuan, which translates as “intelligent energy company capable of anticipating the future with a positive spirit” — a name which both phonetically and semantically reminds us of the original brand name.

“We didn’t want to disguise ourselves, but we did wish to use poetic concepts based on Chinese culture.” Pilar Núñez, Subdirector of Brand and Corporate Identity at Repsol

 

Brand identity is something that’s also defined through the corporate colors and logo. “We were deliberating whether or not to maintain the traditional logo. We kept the letters because our MotoGP sponsorship is the main tool for building brand recognition in Asian markets,” Pilar Núñez says. She also adds that “the motorcycles don’t have the logo anywhere, but they do show the letters and colors which so clearly identify the brand. So we decided to add the Chinese characters right below the letters, in navy blue.”

The colors presented yet another challenge. In China, white symbolizes death and mourning (like black does in Western countries). This phase entailed another exercise in flexibility in order to adapt to the culture: “It was necessary to keep this in mind for the type, so we switched the white for the more traditional navy blue,” Núñez says.

Introducing a brand into the Chinese market is a complicated job. As part of its brand strategy, Repsol has taken care to know its target audience, remain flexible to adaptation, and be respectful of a different culture, all without losing the essence of the company’s values.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.