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

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Café With Ego

Some Hong Kong businesses indicate honesty with their name, others something else.

Café de Ego in Hong Kong

I have only passed by the cafe near the Kowloon City Ferry Pier in Hong Kong. I wonder if breakfast would be better at a Café de Eggo.

On a deeper note, I saw a remarkable film today which currently can't be seen outside of Hong Kong. China wants to see its movie industry thrive, but this is one film Beijing would be happy to see fail. At the moment, though, available tickets are scarce. Still pondering what I saw, so a few thoughts about the film later.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Honest Commercial Corporation in Hong Kong

I share this lest people doubt it exists. Assuming they live up to their name, I wish them the best.

Honest Commercial Corporation in Hong Kong

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Apple Opens a Special New Store in Xiamen, China

Today Apple opened its first store in Xiamen, China, at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall. Unlike the notable Apple Store which opened almost a year ago at Jiefangbei in Chongqing, no Apple logo could be seen from afar.

Apple Store at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall in Xiamen, China

As explained by several Apple Store employees, that is all by design and part of the look for Apple's newest "D phase" of stores which also appears at new locations in Nanning far to the west and Shenyang far to the north.

Apple hasn't totally eliminated the outside logo, though. One is well hidden on a wall at the Xiamen store.

Hidden Apple logo at the SM Lifestyle Center shopping mall in Xiamen, China

My eyes strain to see the faintest sign of the logo in the above photo, and I had the same experience in person. If a store employee hadn't mentioned a hidden logo, I wouldn't have noticed it. Even after the hint, finding it took significant effort. Close up, the logo is somewhat easier to see but still doesn't jump out.

closeup view of the hidden Apple logo

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.

It may also be hoped it communicates a message similar to "we're so cool we don't even need to show our logo". Another possible impact relates to the "fake" Apple Stores still common in China. Will they be willing to imitate a look which includes no sign?

A "fake" Apple Store with an "Apple Store" storefront sign
Another "Apple Store" I saw by chance today in Xiamen

Although it is not illegal in China for these stores to resell genuine Apple merchandise and most are easily distinguished from a genuine Apple Store, the bigger question is whether these stores are selling genuine, fake, or the semi-genuine Apple products I have seen being made at Huaqiangbei and elsewhere in China. Apple has far more control over what is sold in its own stores, where it can sell its genuine products in an environment which best complements its brand image, no small part of Apple's success.

The lack of a visible Apple logo didn't appear to hurt today. Over 30 minutes after opening there was still a long, slow line of people. The store is much easier to find than the logo.

crowd at the opening at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

A big draw for some people were the limited free shirts commemorating the opening.

free shirt given away at the opening of the at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

One group of Apple fans decided it was worth taking a break from their jobs in order to be among the first to visit the store and hopefully score some shirts.

group posing for a photo in front of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

At the entrance, people were greeted with cheers and high-fives from Apple Store employees.

Apple employees greeting customers at the opening of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Unlike the Jiefangbei store, no special art marked its opening. But the Xiamen store can make its own claims to fame, at least for now. According to an employee, it boasts the longest LED light panels of any Apple Store in China.

long lights at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

long overhead lights at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

And it also has the largest Ultra HD Screen.

large Ultra HD Screen at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

The live greenery inside is another aspect Apple's new look for its stores.

live plants in a wall at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

During the opening hours the store was packed with customers and Apple Store employees.

crowd at the opening of the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

As seems to be common for Apple's new stores in China, a number of the employees were from the the U.S. and established stores elsewhere in China. During my visit I met employees who had transferred from California, Hawaii, Texas, and Shanghai. At least some of them expect to be at the Xiamen store for two years. This not only helps Apple ensure its China stores offer an experience similar to its U.S. stores but could also have benefits when Apple's employees bring what they learn in China back to the U.S. or to elsewhere in the world.

After the opening hour or two, the crowd thinned to a point where the outside line had disappeared and the inside was still busy but moving around was more manageable. As Best Buy has learned, crowds can be especially deceiving in China. In the end, something else matters much more.

RMB cash counting machine

So Apple is surely keeping a closer eye on sales, whether by cash or card.

Apple employee using cash counting machine for a man's purchase

person making a purchase with a credit card at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Below are more scenes from the store today including employees demonstrating, assisting, discussing, and photographing; customers watching, trying, buying, and waiting for others; and security keeping an eye on things. The store is Apple's 30th in China, and more are on the way. The opening is symbolic not only for Apple but Xiamen as well. Like many other cities in China, Xiamen has seen much recent development. An under-construction subway system will soon have a station next to the large shopping mall, something surely not lost on Apple as it seeks to grow as well.

Apple employee helping a man put on an Apple Watch

Apple employee helping a customer put on an Apple Watch

Apple employees assisting customers

Apple employees assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employees with a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer with a laptop

Apple employee assisting a customer

Apple employee assisting a customer with headphones at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

customer looking at headphones

customer using a laptop for sale at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

customers in front of monitor displaying Jupiter at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

people trying iPads at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee giving a demonstration at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee giving a demonstration

Apple employee giving a demonstration

woman waiting with a suitcase at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

people using mobile phones at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

security at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

three employees speaking to each other at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

Apple employee taking a photograph with a Canon camera at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China

man with Swarovksi bag making a purchase at the SM Lifestyle Center Apple Store in Xiamen, China