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Showing posts with label Branding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Branding. Show all posts

Monday, May 14, 2018

Playboy at Jiefang East Road in Yunfu

While just looking through my photos, I suspected one could have been included in the earlier post of scenes from historical Jiefang Road in Yunfu. I didn't consider it before, because when I first took the photo I didn't think of it as part of the same street. But a look at a map and enlarging an address sign in the photo confirms it is indeed from Jiefang East Road.

Especially since the photo contrasts with the others, I will share it here:

Playboy street-front sign on Jiefang East Road in Yunfu


Playboy is well known in this part of the world but not in the same way it is in the U.S. The brand positions itself quite differently here. More about that another day.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Golden Visit to M8 Langhe Dumplings in Zhaoqing

Previously, I shared a photo of a wonton restaurant in Zhaoqing with a logo very similar to the McDonald's Golden Arches. The next day I happened to pass by yet again. I also happened to be hungry this time. So I took the opportunity to have dinner there.

After sitting down at a table, I noticed the M8 logo appeared in a number of locations, including signs featuring one of their ice drinks.

tables and signs for drinks at M8 Lianghe Wontons


As indicated by their menu, in addition to wontons they offer a variety of other items, most common Cantonese fare.

M8 Langhe Wontons menu in Zhaoqing


The choice for me was easy. For 8 yuan (about US $1.25) I ordered a medium-sized bowl of the item featured in the name on their storefront sign — langhe wontons (塱鹤云吞).

medium sized bowl of Langhe Wontons at M8 in Zhaoqing


The wantons are named after Langhe village in Zhaoqing (reference in Chinese). Some other restaurants I have passed in Zhaoqing similarly feature "langhe wontons" in their names.

I also ordered a plate of Chinese broccoli, but they were out. So for 7 yuan I had the usual choi sum — much healthier than the Big Mac I had earlier suggested pairing with the wontons.

plate of choi sum at M8 Langhe Wontons in Zhaoqing


In short, the wontons were better than I expected. They are a smaller type of wonton which I have found at some places not to be especially flavorful. But these were tasty. The choi sum was a little overcooked for my tastes, not uncommon, but for 7 yuan I was still pleased.

And just to make sure . . . I asked the high school boy who took my money while the woman who had taken my order was back in the kitchen about the eatery's name. He said "M8" and also said this was their only location.

If I were living in Zhaoqing, I could definitely see myself returning. For comparison, I would also be curious to try some of the other restaurants in Zhaoqing which similarly feature langhe wontons.

But none of them will have the golden M8.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Sign of Northeast China from Shenyang

Trying to track down a possible connection inspired me to dig through the photos I took in Shenyang about a year and a half ago. The city in Northeast China's Liaoning province is about a 2900 kilometer (1800 mile) drive from my current location in Zhaoqing in Southeast China. The photos made me think of how the two cities are different worlds in many ways yet definitely parts of the same country.

The focus here has been heavy on the southern half of China for a while. So for a change of spirit and color below are two photos of a remarkable sign in Shenyang that caught my eye both when I saw it in person and when I more recently scrolled through my photos. The sign's top section is for the Huihualou Jewelry Store and the lower section is for the Huihualou Business Hotel. I find the sign reminiscent of earlier times in Shenyang and endearing in its own way.


sign for the Huihualou Jewelry Store (薈華楼金店) and Huihualou Business Hotel in Shenyang


sign for the Huihualou Jewelry Store (薈華楼金店) and Huihualou Business Hotel in Shenyang

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Dope Sign in Taipei

Admittedly, I paused for a moment when I first noticed the "Dope Rent" sign hanging above a lane in Taipei.

"酷租 Dope Rent" sign in Taipei


I figured the sign wasn't about renting illegal drugs, so I wondered what led to the use of "dope" in the company's English name. A look at the company's Chinese name "酷租" gave a clue.

The first character can mean "hip" — a loanword reflecting that "kù" (Mandarin Chinese) sounds somewhat similar to "cool" in English. A look around Dope Rent's website indicates that was the meaning they had in mind.

The rest of the English name is straightforward, as "rent" is a common translation for the second character in the Chinese name. Fittingly, both the website and the sign indicate Dope Rent is a property management company.

So they could have gone with something like "Cool Rent" for their name. But maybe they didn't think that would be so dope.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Language School Wants to "Make Taiwan Great Again": Cheers for Donald Trump in Taipei

During my travels the past couple of years I have seen images of Donald Trump in a variety of settings, such as at a newsstand in Taiyuan, on the wall of a noodle restaurant in Hong Kong, and at a stall selling paper cut portraits in Shanghai. The past few weeks it was an advertisement on a building in Taipei that most caught my attention.

Cheers language school advertisement with "Make Taiwan Great Again" and image of Donald Trump


The "Make Taiwan Great Again" slogan which accompanies the image of Trump on the advertisement for Cheers International Education Group is a clear play on Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. While the use of English in advertisements isn't uncommon in Taipei, it is especially fitting given the focus of Cheers: foreign language training.

The Cheers page on Facebook features the same slogan and image of Trump:

top section of the Cheers International Education Group's Facebook page


Trump is depicted making a sign with his right hand, as best as I can tell not one which has been captured in an unaltered photo of him. Since the thumb is extended it isn't a standard horns sign, though perhaps a horns sign was intended. The hand sign does match the American Sign Language sign for the acronym "ILY" — standing for "I love you". But there's a twist here. The palm should face towards the object of the love. So the hand sign in this case could be interpreted as "I love myself".

Whatever the advertisement's designer had in mind, that a language school in Taipei would use Trump's message and image in this way raises questions about how he is perceived here. I am not aware of any scientific polling results on the matter, but both positive and negative opinions about Trump could be found in Taiwan when he was elected. Anecdotally and more recently, I have come across a mix of opinions as well. For example, when Trump came up in a conversation with a Taiwanese friend who strongly dislikes him, she commented that a surprising-to-her number of people in Taiwan view him positively as President of the U.S. due to his business background. And a local political activist I met mentioned that some Taiwanese hope Taiwan's next president will be like Trump for the same reason.

So while The Trump Organization could see the advertisement as impinging on their brand, Donald Trump may first see it as indicating some of his appeal abroad. A bigger test, however, may be whether a Taiwanese politician ever prominently features Trump in a positive fashion as part of a political advertising campaign. Barack Obama can already claim that achievement.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Parts and All of All at Two Shopping Centers in Zhuhai

The Zhuhai Port Plaza underground shopping mall has a sign with a claim.

Port Plaza promotional sign with the words "All You Can Get Here"


Given the context, the phrase "all you can get here" encompasses the items shown below. Indeed, all of them, such as food, shopping, beauty salons, and transportation, are available. In fact, more can be found there. And two years ago I even saw some Baltimore Ravens boxer shorts on sale for 25 RMB (about U.S. $3.90 then).

Suffice it to say, a lot of stuff can be found at the Port Plaza, which sits just in front of the Gongbei Port immigration checkpoint at the border with Macau.

But the more upscale shopping area at the Midtown complex, about three kilometers away and also in the Gongbei subdistrict of Zhuhai, makes a much stronger claim.

"All Is Here" sign


In this case, the "all" doesn't appear to be limited to the items below. That only leaves all of all.

Competition is fierce. And that's all.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Bit of Bengbu on the Fourth of July

Two days ago in Bengbu, a city in China's Anhui province, I spent the evening trying to celebrate the Fourth of July. Like a big part of my reasoning for choosing to visit Bengbu — appreciating the sound of its name — I saw it as a way to mix things up and learn things I may not have otherwise learned about China. I don't have as much of a story to tell about the night as I did a few years ago for a Fourth of July in Hengyang, Hunan. And while I did find much of interest, it would make more sense to share most of it in other contexts. Still, I have a bit of story . . .

The night started more fittingly than I could have ever reasonably expected. Seconds after heading out, I saw a Stars & Stripes themed motor scooter driving off.

American flag themed motor scooter in Bengbu


While I have seen scooters with an American flag design in China on occasion before, including one other in Bengbu, the timing here was wonderful. This really happened.

Later in the evening, I saw a scooter with a design seemingly inspired by a country who played a large role in making the Fourth of July happen.

British flag themed motor scooter in Bengbu


I see these British-looking designs on motor scooter far more often, so this was less of surprise.

After several nighttime snacks including two local items and one Big Mac, I stopped by a small convenience store to buy a celebratory drink. A Bengbu brand of baijiu struck me as a grand idea, and I jokingly asked a young girl who was eager to help whether she liked it or not. With body language playfully suggesting she wasn't exactly telling the truth, she said she did. Her mother (I presume) and I laughed. Good enough.

girl holding bottle of 皖酒王


So for 15 yuan (about U.S. $2.20) I bought a bottle of Bengbu Baijiu — not its name based on the Chinese (皖酒王), which more emphasizes its Anhui roots, but I like how it rolls of the tongue.

During a discussion with the taxi driver as I headed back to my hotel, I wasn't surprised to learn she didn't know July 4 had any significance in the U.S. But I was a bit surprised when she said she liked drinking this brand of baijiu. And I gotta say, as far a cheap baijiu goes I found it to be pretty decent. I didn't finish it though. I had more explorations planned for the Fifth of July.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Faded Glory in Xiapu

American-flag design socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale
Socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale at a Walmart in Xiapu, Fujian Province

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chinese Flags, Dog Meat, and a Patriotic Crab in Mudanjiang

Today is the last day for the Golden Week celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China. Since Chinese flags have been a persistent theme here during the past week or so (for example here, here, and here), it seems fitting to share some more Chinese flags I saw today, these prominently on display at a restaurant in Mudanjiang.

dog meat restaurant with Chinese national flags in Mudanjiang, China


For those who can read Chinese, one other thing is immediately obvious about the above restaurant on West Ping'an Street: their special dish. The Chinese characters "狗肉" in its name mean "dog meat". Restaurants featuring dog meat are easy to find in Mundanjiang. In fact, within sight of the restaurant is another which features "dog meat" in its name.

group of men watching and playing a game in front of a dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


And further west along West Ping'an Street is another restaurant with "dog meat" in its name . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


And another . . .

dog meat restaurant in Mudanjiang, China


Notably, none of these other dog meat restaurants had Chinese flags outside. Also of note, some of their names reference rivers in or bordering the Korean Peninsula. Although Mudanjiang is closer to Russia, North Korea isn't very far away.

I didn't look at every sign along the street, so there could be more along this section of road about one kilometer long. My sense was that this area has a higher density of restaurants featuring dog meat than other parts of Mudanjiang, but, again, this is not something I have been rigorously paying attention to.

I really hadn't planned posting about dog meat today, so I will save more on the topic for another day. I'll now return to Chinese flags to end this post. Of course I saw more of them today. One was on display at restaurant in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza.

crab-like sculpture holding a PRC flag in Mudanjiang, China


This restaurant features another kind of meat — crabs, presumably of the patriotic variety. The humanoid crab on the right appears to be holding an iPhone though.

And I believe that is the end to this year's series of National Day posts.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Step Away from Adidas: Adisco Shoes in China

Business is getting better in China for sports brands such as Nike and Adidas. But as Bruce Einhorn reported in Bloomberg, not all sports brands are happy:
The sports boom has yet to pay off for some of China's home-grown brands. Competition from Adidas, Nike and other foreign brands is hurting many of them, with order growth falling from high double-digits last year to low-to-mid double digits in early 2016, according to a Fitch Ratings report published on June 3. Fitch expects “smaller domestic manufacturers' margins to come under pressure in the next five years due to increasing competition, their limited pricing flexibility to distributors and rising labor costs.”
In response, some Chinese sports brands are "looking for foreign assistance". I saw one potentially relevant example in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, although I don't think it is what Einhorn had in mind.

Before highlighting the notable shoe store, I will first share a photo of a different shoe store in Taiyuan. Its sign features Adidas, Nike, and New Balance:



One could ask whether the store in Taiyuan sells genuine Adidas, Nike, and New Balance shoes. I did not ask this question. Instead, I took the photo simply because I wanted a recent example of the Adidas three bar logo. So simple. So recognizable.

Now, here is a shoe store I saw in another shopping district in Taiyuan which has arguably received some foreign assistance:

Adisco store in Taiyuan, Shanxi, Cina


As I assume most readers immediately noticed, Adisco's logo, indicated as registered, is rather similar to the Adidas three bar logo. One difference is that two of the bars are subtly divided into smaller sections.

Adisco's shoes display a similar approach. Many feature a three stripe design Adidas fans would quickly recognize. Two of the stripes are subtly divided into smaller sections, though.

Adisco shoes for sale in Taiyuan


A shiny golden certificate in the store declares that Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand".

Gold plaque proclaiming Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand"


The certificate lists an official website for inquiries: www.chinacqbc.org. I have yet to find anything functional at that address, so I have not able to inquire about their standards. But the certificate's shininess is undeniable.

Also undeniable is that the store was using a Nike shoebox.

Monitor sitting on top of a Nike shoe box at an Adisco store in Taiyuan

It seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps they were going for a "we're crushing Nike" message.

Although there may be little doubt about Adisco's source of inspiration, I don't know if Adidas has challenged them or how Chinese courts would rule. There are many relevant factors to consider, and the results of trademark disputes can be surprising. One of Adidas's competitors which appears on the first store's sign has run into much bigger trademark problems. More about that later.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Two Cs on One Head

Hearts aren't the only symbol I have seen on children's heads in Taiyuan. This boy's hair brought to mind the knockoff Chanel shirts I have seen in China:

hair on back of boy's head shaved into a Chanel logo


I think that is heart on the top of his head as well.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA?: A Possible Example of Multiple Trademark Infringement in China

In a post about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai and what it says about both American and Chinese influence, I shared a photo of a shirt I saw two years ago in Hengyang, Hunan:

shirt with a mouse/panda-like head shape filled with an American-flag themed design


I chose the photo because the Mickey-Mouse-like shape on the shirt appears to incorporate the design of the national flag of the U.S. However the shape isn't a perfect match to the standard Disney's Mouse Ears Mark; for example, the ears aren't the same shape and proportion.

Disney's Mouse Ears Mark
Image source
Perhaps the designer failed to execute the design or deliberately made the difference in the hope to avoid violating trademark laws.

There was another possibility, though, which seemed at least as likely and caused me to hesitate before using the photo in a post about Disney. The shape on the shirt is also similar to a head shape used by HIPANDA — a Chinese fashion brand which has received international attention.

HIPANDA's online store at Tmall currently sells a shirt with a similar American spirit and sparkly design:

HIPANDA shirt with American flag design



Other HIPANDA shirts with a Stars and Stripes design are available as well, including this one:

HIPANDA shirt with flag of the U.S. design


The silhouette of the head on the Hengyang shirt doesn't perfectly match the standard HIPANDA head either, though I would argue it is a closer match than with Disney's Mouse Ears Mark. Presumably it isn't an official HIPANDA shirt.

So was the designer of the Hengyang shirt trying to imitate Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA? Or was the designer aiming for something which could be interpreted as either? I am not aware of any trademark disputes between Disney and HIPANDA, yet both might take issue with the shirt's design which fits into a space between Disney's Mouse Ears Mark and the HIPANDA head silhouette.

Whatever the designer's intent, the Hengyang shirt's design could be interpreted as "Disney". And other aspects of its design suggest American influence. It was the most compelling example I could find in my photos without great effort. So I went ahead and used it in the Disney post, although I wondered if I would receive any critical response (I did not).

Since then, I have seen shirts with more clearcut examples combining Disney and American influence themes. And shirts with designs reminiscent of the American flag, like the HIPANDA examples, have been a common sight in China. I have also recently seen many people wearing shirts with Mickey Mouse designs — a number of Donald Duck sightings as well. I am willing to bet at least some of the shirts don't have Disney's official blessing. More about all of these shirts later.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Disney a Channel for Both American and Chinese Influence, Cares About Another Type More

shirt with an American flag design in the shape of a panda/mouse/etc shape
Shirt worn by a woman in Hengyang, Hunan

In minutes Disney will open a new park to the public in Shanghai. Some see it as an opportunity with deeper implications than an increased number of authentic Mickey Mouses in China. Last month, Graham Webster, a senior fellow of The China Center at Yale Law School, briefly commented on a tweet about a meeting between Disney CEO Robert Iger and Chinese President Xi Jinping:

I replied to Webster's tweet with a similarly brief comment:

My aim wasn't to refute Webster's point but to highlight the other side of the coin. It isn't clear how this coin is balanced.

David Barboza and Brooks Barnes in The New York Times recently provided an example from the past showing how Disney accepted the influence couldn't go just one way:
[In 1997] Disney agreed to back the director Martin Scorsese, who wanted to make “Kundun,” about China’s oppression of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Chinese government, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, denounced the project and pressured Disney to abandon it.

In the end, Disney decided that it could not let an overseas government influence its decision to distribute a movie in the United States. “Kundun” was released, and China retaliated by banning Disney films . . .

In October 1998, Mr. Eisner met Zhu Rongji, who had just been named prime minister, at China’s leadership compound in Beijing. Mr. Eisner apologized for “Kundun,” calling it a “stupid mistake,” according to a transcript of the meeting.
Disney's change of heart raises the question of how much of the content in Disney's movies has since been influenced to some degree, directly or indirectly, by a desire to not hurt the feelings of the Chinese government.

And Disney is now aiding Chinese influence in other ways:
Disney is going to extraordinary lengths to prove its commitment to China and the Communist Party. During a 2010 meeting with China’s propaganda minister, Mr. Iger pledged to use the company’s global platform to “introduce more about China to the world.” And he has done just that.
Barboza and Barnes also provide examples of how Disney has made a park that is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese." Some of this is similar to how other American companies have localized their products or services in China, such as Pizza Hut's durian pizza or Walmart's larger selection of live seafood. Yet with its movies and its parks' immersive experiences, Disney has the power to influence in ways Pizza Hut or Walmart can't. The Chinese government clearly appreciates this and wishes to contain Disney in a variety of ways, though other factors are at play, such as wanting local companies to receive a large piece of the profitable opportunities Disney generates.

So not only is it uncertain what any success for Disney in China would mean for Western, or more specifically American, influence, Disney shows how an American company's ambitions can lead to China having more influence beyond its borders. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. China undoubtedly has much it can positively contribute to the world. But most Americans don't want the Chinese government to have any ability to restrict the content of movies which appear in the U.S.

As the full NYT piece details, Disney has made a number of unusual sacrifices in order to operate in the mainland China market. For them to pay off, Disney's ultimate concern won't be the balance of American and Chinese influence it facilitates. They are simply pieces of a puzzle in reaching another goal.

Disney cares about Disney influence most.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stars and Stripes Hello Kitty Tissues in Taipei

Signs of Japanese and American culture are easy to spot in Taiwan. Why not combine them?

Hello Kitty facial tissues with a U.S. flag design
Tissues for sale at a Taipei convenience store

Friday, April 1, 2016

Donald Trump to Bring His Chinese Car Brand to the U.S.

While Donald Trump's campaign in the Republican Party presidential primary has received an unusual amount of media attention in the U.S., his growing car brand in China has gone relatively unnoticed. Recently in Jieyang, Guangdong, I saw one of the aptly named vehicles.

Back of a Trumpchi SUV in Jieyang, China


As reported by China Daily, Trump has clearly left his mark in China:
Trumpchi sales grew rapidly, especially in the last few years. Today, it is a household name in China.

The numbers tell its story. From 17,000 units in 2011, Trumpchi's first year, sales progressively surged to 190,000 units in 2015. That's a whopping more-than-1,000-percent rise over a four-year period!
When China Daily uses an exclamation point it is undoubtedly a big thing. Yet success in China won't be enough to satiate Trump. As Car and Driver reports, Chinese experts believe Trumpchi's entry into the U.S. market is practically inevitable (emphasis mine):
Song is “90 percent confident” that the new Trumpchi GS4—a surprisingly not-ugly SUV with vague Hyundai and Nissan overtones—will be sold in the U.S., and the company has begun looking for U.S. dealers.
But Automotive News reports some experts are skeptical Trumpchi can succeed in the U.S.:
James Chao, managing director for Asia Pacific at consulting firm IHS Automotive, said it will be difficult for any unknown brand, no matter where it is from, to crack the U.S. market.
Trump would surely point out that many pundits were equally sure he wouldn't have much success in the Republican primaries. So perhaps people will soon be proudly driving their Trumpchies next to the Great Wall of Trump (paid for by Mexico (the wall, that is (the cars too if Trump is really good))).

No word on whether any future Trumpchi vehicles will be installed with China-made Trump toilets.




Additional Info: Please note the special date of this post.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More Blues: The Losing Bar Lost in Jieyang

One night about a month ago on Wanjiang North Road in Jieyang, I noticed a bar with an unusual, but possibly fitting, name.

Losing Bar (迷途酒馆) in Jieyang with a partially falling sign a no lights on at night


The bar's Chinese name "迷途" (mítú) has a dictionary translation of "to lose one's way", which expresses a different message than the English name chosen for the bar. That doesn't necessarily mean the name was a mistake or the creator wasn't aware of the difference though. Whatever the case, it appeared the Losing Bar had, well, lost. The sign was in need of repair and there were no lights on during a prime bar time.

Two nights ago at the same location, I saw things had changed.

Mu Blue Pub (沐蓝酒馆) in Jieyang, China


The Mu Blue Pub took a different approach to translating its name, 沐蓝 (mùlán), into English by using the standard Pinyin transcription for the first character and the English translation for the second character. Perhaps this was done to avoid a more difficult task of translating both characters into a fitting English name.

I didn't go inside the new pub and won't have the opportunity to visit it in the near future. Given the turnover I have seen in Jieyang, a topic for another day, I wouldn't be surprised to see something else there if I return in a year or two. But maybe the Mu Blue Bar will be a winner.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Hidden Logo No More: Apple Goes Darker in Xiamen, China

When I visited Apple's store in Xiamen, China, during its opening a few months ago, I saw there was no shining Apple logo visible from outside the store. Employees explained this was part of a new look, and one of them told me about an Apple logo hidden on an outside wall. It took me some time, but I found it.

I would be rather impressed if anybody noticed the logo without first being told of its existence.

hidden, barely visible Apple logo on a wall outside the Xiamen Apple Store


The above photo provides an accurate sense of the logo's visibility. Really, it's there. It can be seen a little more easily close up.

closeup of a portion of the hidden Apple logo


As I wrote before:
Employees explained Apple wants people to focus more on the products than the logo and believes its stores' distinctive design will be enough for people to identify them.
Apparently they have had a slight change of heart since then. When I returned to the store today, I saw that the hidden logo isn't so hidden anymore.

darker, more visible "hidden" Apple logo on a wall outside the Xiamen Apple Store


A store employee told me there had been several versions of the logo, each progressively darker to make it more visible, since my earlier visit. I joked that I expect if I come back again the logo will have a border of flashing lights. I refrained from joking about iterative design.

I have questions, such as whether the initial design was truly deliberate and what feedback motivated the latter changes, but answering them would require reliable information about behind-the-scenes decision making. I'll just hope for the lights.