Your app name, and indeed your Developer, or Company name are all key marketing collateral for your business, collectively they make up your ‘Brand’. As you are localizing your app to unlock foreign language markets, then obviously you want to establish your app, and your brand in these regions. Your first reaction might be to maintain your current brand, however there are a couple of issues you should consider.
If you translate your app name, you are effectively creating a new brand, as your target audience will most likely be unfamiliar with your existing English branding. Even if this is your intention and you want the translated English words to become your new brand in the target language, the English meaning will likely be ‘lost in translation’.
Trying to meaningfully capture the messaging of your English brand in a foreign language is more an exercise in localized marketing than linguistics. So unless your app name and company name have a significantly meaningful connection with the product you are selling, and you are willing to invest in local marketing advice, you should consider not translating your Brand when translating your app.
Once you have reached a decision on translating your Brand, you should consider two other issues before launching your app in foreign language markets.
Firstly, you should always localize your brand, even if you decide not to translate it. Now, that is a paradox of a sentence. Let’s take an English to English branding mistake from the 1970’s to emphasize the point. Wang computers ran a very successful marketing campaign in the US with the slogan ‘Wang Cares”, this same campaign flopped in the UK; for the simple reason that the slogan was not localized. If in doubt, say “Wang Cares” really quickly in an English accent. It is always worth having your English brand localized to check for any unintentional local meaning, just to make sure you are not offending anybody, or misrepresenting your intended message.
Secondly, you must consider that not all languages use a Latin script. Consider 写真 (japanese for photo) as the name for your photography app, in terms of branding it means nothing to the English reader, it is only memorable and recognizable by its difference. It stands out, good from a marketing point of view, but any other similar sized characters can replace it and your audience will not know the difference. Unless of course you are willing to spend millions of dollars in convincing them that it is memorable. Coca Cola have managed it. What you really should consider doing in a situation where you are marketing your app to a non-Latin script language, is to transliterate it into that language. This will produce a locally acceptable phonetic version of your English brand that will be recognizable to your target audience and can, in time, develop as a true local brand.
Remember, always localize your app name, even if you do not intend translating it, and finally, transcribe your brand into non-Latin script languages for maximum reach.