Monday, April 11, 2011

Copying & Localization: Dairy Queen, Mango Queen, and TCBY

Previously, I shared that not only was Dairy Queen facing an ice cream competitor with the curiously similar name DU, but also facing potential competition from Mango Queen.

Now I'll share that Dairy Queen may have decided that Mango Queen and/or others like it were on to something.  Inside a Dairy Queen in Kunming, Yunnan I saw this sign:

Dairy Queen menu sign showing mango selections

As seen in the center, Dairy Queen now offers two different mango drinks/smoothies.  Given typical tastes for desserts in China, this seems like a reasonable localized offering.  Dairy Queen might not have any competition from Mango Queen in Kunming but mango drinks & desserts are popular at many places.

But even if Dairy Queen corners the mango drink/smoothie market in Kunming, they may still have to worry about some other competition down the street:

TCBY store

Yes, it's TCBY.  I've spotted them in other cities in China as well, however they appear to be fewer in number than Dairy Queen.  In the area seen above I saw at least 4-5 Dairy Queens and 2 TCBY's within a 20 minute walking distance.  Even with that density, I saw one Dairy Queen with a line of customers stretching outside.

As evidenced by the milk tea at TCBY, a popular drink in China, it is clear they've adjusted their menu as well.  All of this goes to show how many American food & beverage companies are localizing their menus in China -- an important thing since Chinese tastes and expectations are different from American's.  I am happy to say, though, that while tastes may differ there is clear evidence that many Chinese share a preference with American's for a key item -- Oreo Blizzards remain a staple in Chinese DQ's.

The various "shared ideas" of Dairy Queen, Mango Queen, TCBY and other dessert places also highlights that the line between inspiration and copying can sometimes be fuzzy.  I'm not equating all such acts and defending plagiarism, copyright infringement, etc., but simply pointing out that there sometimes can be murkiness in these issues -- even from a purely Western perspective.

The issues of copying and localization play important roles for foreign companies doing business in China.  Copyright and trademark issues can be major problems, but to some degree many foreign companies will benefit from their own form of copying, whatever you want to call it, so they can best adapt to the local market.

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