Occasionally I change my phone’s language to Chinese, to immerse myself in the language and pick up some phone-related terms. For example, that way I learned that the “translate”-button in Mandarin often reads “translation rice cake” (翻譯年糕), as a reference to the manga Doraemon, where they have a magic rice cake that makes you understand foreign languages.
While in Paris I had my phone on Mandarin (Chinese) and noticed a place called Li Duo (利多) Supermarket in Google Maps. I was like, wth is “Li Duo”? A new Chinese store I haven’t heard of? Then it dawned on me: Li Duo = Liduo = Lidl. The meanings of the Chinese characters are advantage (li) and many (duo). It’s also used in phrases like liduo bishao - many advantages and few disadvantages. The “li” is also the same one used in bianli - convenient, as in convenience store. Perfect.
Sometimes Western companies struggle to find fitting Chinese names for their brands. It’s tricky to make it sound close to the original name, while also making it sound good in Chinese and at the same time choosing characters that make sense and convey a positive message.
I’d say Lidl nailed all three of these, 100/100 points.
I also found this Chinese blog post titled Discount Supermarket Lidl’s Snacks Review. The opening sentence goes “First off I have to say that Lidl chose a great Chinese name, because it’s actually really inexpensive.” So it seems the name resonates with Chinese speakers too.
Interestingly, for their foray into the Chinese market, Lidl actually went with the name Lide (历德), which is a phonetic translation. These characters don’t mean anything in this constellation, separately they mean history (li) and virtue (de). It’s a nice touch that the de (德) also is the character used for Germany, where Lidl is from. But it’s not a very strong connection, as this character is often used for translating foreign names, like Texas (Dezhou) or James Bond (Zhanmusi Pangde).
Lidl withdrew from the Chinese market in 2019, after just two years (article in German). With this, the name Lide seems to have disappeared, with both Google Maps and Wikipedia showing Liduo. The edit history shows that the Wiki page’s name was briefly changed to Lide in 2017, only to be changed back to Liduo about a week later.
As to why they didn’t go with the arguably better name to enter China, one can only speculate. Possibly there was a collision with an existing brand name, or maybe they got bad advice. Or maybe they decided that Lide would be more suited for the Chinese market.
Anyways, the name Liduo seems to have stuck, and it’s definitely my headcanon now.