Folly of AirBnB in China

Prologue to AirBnB in China:

See Mashable’s post regarding the name of AirBnB in China. The story proves the importance of accurate translations, or in this case, the importance in how you translate just a single name.

See previous article: What is a Quality Translation?

In vacation lodging, AirBnB leads the world marketplace. Since its inception in 2008, the company received fanfare due to its revolutionary model. A model that became a disruptive force in the lodging and vacation rental industry.

In August 2015, AirBnB entered the Chinese market, and in March 2017, they announced their new Chinese name.  The name, “Aibiying”(爱彼迎), equates to “welcome each other with love,” and was revealed by CEO Brian Chesky at a press conference in Shanghai.  Unfortunately, native speakers met the name with disdain and ridicule. Users on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) commented that it sounded awkward and even sounded like a firm selling items in an adult-type of industry.  Critics said it sounded like “I love Bing” (Microsoft’s Chinese search engine “Biying“).

Any publicity is good publicity

The axiom proved false for AirBnB in China, and the issue became a marketing challenge. Will they persist until “Aibiying” becomes widely accepted, or take on challenging task of creating a new name? Only time will tell. While not alone, many companies (and of all sizes) deal with similar follies – not only in names, but also in communications. Especially those not localized or translated properly.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, businesses should always use professional translations to ensure accuracy in the local language.  Sometimes, as in this case, a single word can cause a big image problem.


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