Showing posts with label Copyright/Trademark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Copyright/Trademark. Show all posts

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mockey Mouse Spirit During Christmas in China

Christmas Eve could have been merrier for Disney in China, despite recent indications it will receive special attention in the government's efforts to reduce the number of imitation goods.

young woman wearing a "Mockey Mouse" coat standing next to a Christmas tree in Xiamen, China
What could be a better name for a mock Mickey Mouse?

Obvious imitations of Disney's trademarks, like the one above seen in Xiamen, are still common in China. A couple of months ago I saw an especially large number of "Mockey" clothing items in Shaoguan.

So when in Xiamen this past Christmas weekend I saw Mickeys, or perhaps Mockeys, at an arcade . . .

large Mickey Mouse statue outside an arcade in Xiamen

. . . on a car . . .

Mickey Mouse decals on a car with "新手上路 请多关照"

. . . on underwear . . .

Mickey Mouse underwear for sale in Xiamen

. . . and at a pedestrian street . . .

girl posing with a Mickey Mouse mascot at the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street in Xiamen

. . . all sights I have seen elsewhere in China as well, it was easy to question whether they brought much holiday joy to Disney.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Imitated Art: Giant Abstract Flamingos in Chicago and Zhuhai

Dali L. Yang, Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, recently tweeted a photo of a sculpture by the American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976).

Photo by Dali L. Yang of Flamingo sculpture in Chicago

The Chicago Public Art Program's description of the "Flamingo" emphasizes how the sculpture fits in with its surrounding environment and offers an immersive experience:
Alexander Calder’s abstract stabile anchors the large rectangular plaza bordered by three Bauhaus style federal buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. The sculpture’s vivid color and curvilinear form contrast dramatically with the angular steel and glass surroundings. However, Flamingo is constructed from similar materials and shares certain design principles with the architecture, thereby achieving successful integration within the plaza. Despite its monumental proportions, the open design allows the viewer to walk under and through the sculpture, leading one to perceive it in relation to human scale.
Seven years ago, David Mendell for the Chicago Tribune shared how the cost for a needed renovation at the time may have been justifiable simply in terms of attracting tourists:
Art lovers and conservationists maintain the expenditures are essential, and economical, if Chicago is to continue drawing tourists who want to view public art.

"These works really show the commitment Chicago has to promoting (the city's) cultural landscape in the last half of the 20th Century," said Victor Simmons, director of education for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. "It would be a great loss if those two contemporary works were allowed to disappear."
Fortunately, Calder's work didn't disappear. Two months ago, I felt inspired to take a photo similar to Yang's:

sculpture in Zhuhai resembling Alexander Calder's Flamingo

Perhaps too similar. Unfortunately, I haven't been to Chicago in years. Instead, I took the photo in China — more specifically, at the Huafa Mall in Zhuhai, Guangdong.

sculpture resembling Alexander Calder's Flamingo at the Huafa Mall plaza in Zhuhai

No Bauhaus-style federal buildings border the mall's plaza, and some differences exist between the Zhuhai sculpture and Calder's. But it is hard to believe the striking resemblance is a coincidence, and the Calder Foundation makes no mention of this work.

Photo by Min Lee of Alexander Calder's "Flamingo" in Chicago
Photo by Min Lee of Calder's "Flamingo" in Chicago taken from a more a easily comparable viewpoint

There have been times when an example of "China copied!", often a justifiable claim, struck me as being no more a copy than examples in the West which were not similarly called out. Many of the most celebrated artists have used others' ideas and material to one degree or another. The line between imitation and similar-in-style can be fuzzy. Some of Calder's own works made me immediately think of earlier artists. And the more I compared photos of the sculptures in Zhuhai and Chicago the more differences I noticed. Revisiting both in person may uncover more.

Nonetheless, I strongly lean towards calling the Zhuhai sculpture an imitation. At best, it seems to be rather near that fuzzy boundary. It would be interesting to know whether the differences are primarily a result of artistic considerations, a desire to technically avoid the "copy" label, or failing to perfectly copy Calder's sculpture.

Whatever the artistic, ethical, and legal issues, though, there is a positive side to apparent imitations like the one in Zhuhai. For example, relatively few people in Zhuhai will ever have the opportunity to visit Chicago or support its tourism industry. At least they can now better experience something similar to its art, if not its deep-dish pizzas and hot dogs. From this perspective, it could be argued it would be better if the Zhuhai sculpture were an exact copy.

Regardless, clearly crediting the original, which I didn't see in Zhuhai, would improve things — perhaps something to the effect of:
Variation on Alexander Calder's sculpture "Flamingo" in Chicago, USA.
Not only could it increase people's art appreciation and knowledge, but it could also help avoid a potentially face-losing situation in which someone proudly identifies the sculpture as an example of Zhuhai originality.

In his thoughts about another Chicago sculpture with a twin in China, Jonathan Jones, who writes on art for the Guardian, had this to say about creativity and Chinese art:
The creative individual has been at heart of Chinese art for a long time. Painters and poets of the Song dynasty, during the 12th century, were celebrated as distinctive creators at a time when European art embodied the labour of anonymous artisans and scribes.

There’s no reason to think that China placed a low value on the creative individual – until the 20th century, that is. . . .

The Cultural Revolution undoubtedly attacked the idea that individual creativity should be celebrated or protected.
Yet despite any lasting negatives effects resulting from events of the previous century, creativity exists in China today.

Even if China feels artistic imitations are justifiable, not openly identifying them as such detracts from the work of artists all over the world. And in a special way it hurts Chinese artists who create original work in the 21st century. An environment exists where it is all too easy to think "this might be an imitation".

Nobody is now wondering if Calder copied a sculpture in Zhuhai.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Genuine and Not So Genuine: Baltimore Ravens Boxer Shorts and Other NFL Items for Sale in China

Jingyou Mall portion of the Zhuhai Port Plaza
A small portion of the vast Zhuhai Port Plaza

Hundreds of stalls in the underground Zhuhai Port Plaza shopping center in front of the Gongbei Port immigration checkpoint in Zhuhai, China, sell a wide variety of clothing. Yesterday I saw an unexpected item there which reminded me of where I last lived in the U.S. — Baltimore, Maryland.

Baltimore Ravens boxer shorts for sale in the Zhuhai Port Plaza
Assorted underwear and sleepwear for sale

A young saleswoman said the boxer shorts with the logo of the Baltimore Ravens, a National Football League team, cost 25 RMB (about U.S. $3.90). Although bargaining would likely lead to a lower price, the shorts are already much cheaper than any similar items for sale on the Baltimore Ravens official online store. Obvious imitation products are plentiful at many shops in the market, so it is easy to believe these boxer shorts aren't entirely legitimate.

In regards to counterfeit Baltimore Ravens merchandise coming from China, a few years ago the Baltimore Sun quoted the NFL's vice president of legal affairs as saying "If you're buying merchandise from a China-based website, you're probably not getting the real thing". But the claim doesn't appear to be as true anymore, since the NFL now has a store on Alibaba's which is referenced on the the NFL's website for China.

main page for the NFL store on Tmall
NFL store on Tmall

A Ravens hat currently sells there at nearly a 50% discount for 158 RMB (about U.S. $24.80), not very different from the same hat's current discounted price of $22.99 on the NFL's U.S. online store.

New Era Baltimore Ravens Training 39THIRTY Flex Hat for sale on Tmall
New Era Baltimore Ravens Training 39THIRTY Flex Hat for sale on Tmall

The Ravens page at the NFL Tmall store doesn't list any other items. The store offers five items with the logos of the Ravens' biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, though.

Items for sale listed on the Pittsburgh Steelers page at the NFL Tmall store
Items for sale on the Pittsburgh Steelers page at the NFL Tmall store

At least the Ravens can take heart in the fact I didn't see boxer shorts for any other NFL teams at the shop in Zhuhai.

But the Ravens and the NFL shouldn't look at the shorts themselves as necessarily a sign of growing popularity in China. It is not uncommon for people in China to wear clothing with logos more familiar elsewhere simply for their look without concern for their full meaning. Although there are indications the NFL's relatively small fanbase is growing in China, I very rarely meet anyone familiar with it, sharply contrasting with widespread recognition of the NBA. Likely similar to most people in China, the saleswoman didn't know the meaning of the logo. Nor she she seem to care in the least when I informed her of its connection to an NFL team in the U.S. Nonetheless, if the Baltimore Ravens later notice a fan base unexpectedly growing in Zhuhai, these shorts may be where it all began.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Minquan Road Mobile Phone Street in Zhongshan, China

Although many mobile phone stores exist elsewhere in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, Minquan Road in the central Shiqi District may have the greatest concentration. Below are just a few scenes from there during March earlier this year. Most of the stores sell new phones of brands common in many Chinese cities. The Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center — a collection of stalls selling a variety of lesser known brands, more blatant imitations, or second hand phones — is similar to the Bu Ye Cheng (Long Xiao) Communications Market in Shanghai but much smaller in scale. The photos provide a sense of the brands available and how some stores are changing their look to stay "fresh". They also provide context for a particular store which will be the focus of a later post.

Store featuring Vivo, HTC, Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Meizu, Oppo, and Gionee

Store featuring Apple

Android robot promoting the iPhone 6

Store promoting Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo

A store with a strong Apple theme

Store featuring Oppo and HTC

Promotion for Oppo

Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center

Inside the Minquan Xinyi Shopping Center

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shanghai Follow-Ups: G+, Patriotic Motorbikes, Best Buy, and a Cat

During my recent time in Shanghai, I have seen several things which aren't especially related to one another except that they all continue themes from earlier posts and don't require extended commentary. So I will share them together in a single post.

1. Last year I wrote about a restaurant chain with a logo remarkably similar to one used for Google+. The location in Shanghai featured in the post was still under construction at the time. It is now open.

G+ The Urban Harvest restaurant in Xujiahui, Shanghai

Since I have yet to eat at the restaurant, I am unable to say whether I would give it a +1.

2. Motorbikes in Shanghai with a Stars & Stripes theme covering much their surface have caught my attention. I also saw a motorbike with a less flamboyant design but which features a fearless bald eagle.

motorbike in Shanghai with a plate feature the U.S. flag and a bald eagle

This gives me hope it is just a matter of time until I see a U.S. flag decorated motorbike with a large bald eagle sculpture affixed to its front.

3. At the end of last year, I shared thoughts about Best Buy's experience in China and asked why the lights remained on at Best Buy's location in Xujiahui despite its last stores in China closing in 2011. Not much has changed. The storefront sign still turns on as evening approaches.

Long-closed Best Buy store in Shanghai with its sign turned on

And I still am not sure why.

4. Finally, yesterday I shared photos of cats in Changsha, Hunan. I often see cats in a small independently-owned stores, though it depends on which city I am in. Today in Shanghai, I also happened to see a cat. More remarkable, the cat resided at the store of a popular mid-sized grocery chain.

cat meowing inside a supermarket in Shanghai

Although it may appear to be signaling its intent to bring about my demise in the photo, my impression was that the talkative cat merely hoped for a head scratch. The results of a test supported my hypothesis. And a later conversation with store workers supported another hypothesis. The friendly cat is valued as a rodent catcher.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Perfect for a Wedding: Purchase a McDonald's French Fry Costume From China Online

As I mentioned before, a recent set of photos from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, could inspire a number of questions. Some of the questions I had were about a McDonald's french fries costume in one of the photos.

person wearing a McDonald's french fries costume in Shenzhen

The person wearing the costume in the above photo was standing near a McDonald's in Huaqiangbei while another person was handing out McDonald's coupons. It appeared the costume had seen better days. Fortunately for the restaurant and anyone eager to be a box of McDonald's french fries, the seemingly same costume is available for purchase online. One Guangdong-based store sells a complete costume through China-based AliExpress for US $206.

portion of a web page for McDonald's french fries costume sold on AliExpress

The costume includes a helmet "strong and hard enough to avoid breaking and sudden striking" — a valuable feature since you never know when this costume might provoke an attack. The seller's list of settings where the costume could be appropriate includes "wedding ceremony".

I don't question the authenticity of the McDonald's restaurant, but, as far as I can tell, the costume doesn't represent an official McDonald's character. The closest I found were the Fry Kids, formerly known as the Fry Guys. Although they have an affinity for fries, they are not fries themselves, which has its advantages.

So I am left wondering whether the McDonald's Corporation has approved or cares about the use of this french fry costume for promotions. I would also be interested to learn whether they have approved the public selling of the costume, which includes their registered trademark.

One thing I am not questioning, though, is whether there are any opportunities for the costume in a wedding. In Hong Kong, which borders Shenzhen, McDonald's offers wedding parties.

McDonald's Wedding Party webpage banner
From the wedding party page of the McDonald's Hong Kong website

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Genuine, Fake, and In-between: A Visit to Electronics Markets at Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei

an alley near Huangqiangbei

Several days ago I spent part of one afternoon in Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei (also known as Huaqiang North) commercial area. According to ShenzhenShopper:
Theres over 20 shopping malls located in the Huaqiangbei area which provides about 70 million square meters of business area. Annual sales reaching over 20 billion, and there’s something like 130,000 people employed in the area. Yep, it’s large.
Huaqiangbei is most known for being one of the biggest electronics markets in the world. For many first time visitors, especially those already familiar with typical consumer electronics chain stores in China, I would agree with the suggestion on PIXEL to:
Skip [the consumer electronics shops] and spend your time in the buildings dedicated to Android tablets, “Shanzhai” phones (copies), phone accessories, components, LEDs, various gadgets, etc.
Just one of the shopping centers on its own can be overwhelming to those not accustomed with their scale, density, and intensity. Charles Arthur shared a gallery of photos on The Guardian. As prelude to another gallery of photos on Tech in Asia, Paul Bischoff wrote:
Within lies stall after stall after stall of nearly every gadget, component, and tool imaginable. Over half a dozen city blocks are filled to the brim with crowded marketplaces, each ranging from four to 10 floors high. Photos hardly do it justice. The place is immense.
For a variety of reasons, I kept my photo-taking activities to a minimum this time. The photo above is of an alley on the outskirts of Huaqiangbei. On both sides are huge electronics markets which aren't labeled even on Seeed Studio's detailed Shenzhen Map for Makers (free PDF download). The several markets I visited on this block mostly focused on mobile phone products — from components to complete phones to accessories. Here is just a small taste of what I saw in these markets where the line between genuine and fake can be blurry:
  • Thousands of mobile phones with cracked screens, some showing clear signs they were from the U.S.
  • Screens for various brand name phones for sale.
  • Workers fixing and cleaning phones.
  • Workers affixing brand name labels to unmarked batteries.
  • Workers packaging iPhones to appear as new.
  • Foreigners making purchases, reminding me of what I learned at a fake stuffed toy wholesale store in Guangzhou.
There is much more to say about Huaqiangbei, but I will leave it this for now. It can be a fascinating place to visit, even if you don't need to change an iPhone 5c into an iPhone 5s.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mixing It Up In China: The Ice Stone Creamery Sells Ice Cream With a Familiar Look

U.S.-based Cold Stone Creamery opened its first mainland China ice cream store near People's Square in Shanghai in 2007. Many more Cold Stone stores have since opened elsewhere in Shanghai and also Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Tianjin, and Wuxi.

Recently during a walk, I was surprised to see their reach had spread to Zhongshan, Guangdong province, as well. The first time I briefly saw the store, though, something seemed off. When I passed by another time, it hit me. Despite the outside resemblance, the store wasn't actually a Cold Stone Creamery.

Ice Stone Creamery shop (酷石客冰淇淋料理专家 ) in Zhongshan, China

The name of the Ice Stone Creamery store isn't all that seems to have been inspired by the Cold Stone Creamery. Here is the logo for the Cold Stone Creamery in China:

Cold Stone Creamery China logo

The ice cream logos for Cold Stone and Ice Stone aren't exactly the same, but, like the names, the resemblance is rather remarkable. I could recognize the difference only after a direct comparison.

Ice Stone Creamery appears to have an account on Sina Weibo — a Chinese online service roughly equivalent to Facebook and Twitter.

中山Leonidas酷石客 Sina Weibo account page

Curiously, "Leonidas" takes the place of "Ice Stone Creamery" in its name, although "Ice Stone" can be seen in some posted photos. The most recent post, which is from September, 2013, shows a photo of the store I saw before it opened at the Central Power Plaza shopping mall. The account also mentions other locations in Zhongshan.

After recognizing the store for what it was, I felt compelled to give it a try to see how it compared.

inside the Ice Stone Creamery (酷石客冰淇淋料理专家 ) shop at Central Power Plaza shopping mall

In response to my questioning, the server proudly told me they were a local Zhongshan store. They offered a variety of flavors such as cantaloupe, chocolate, coconut, cookie, cranberry, durian, and green tea. For 18 RMB (about U.S. $2.88) I ordered a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Unlike the Cold Stone Creamery, the chocolate chips were already in the ice cream and other toppings were offered only after the ice cream was in a cup.

a cup of Ice Stone Creamery's mint chip ice cream

As I sat down with my ice cream (sans additional toppings), the remarkable placement of a trademark symbol next to the Ice Stone Creamery logo on the cup reminded me of a 7-Eleven lookalike store in Guizhou. But what I was most interested in was the taste of the ice cream, so I quickly dug in. And the taste truly puzzled me. It was difficult to notice any mint flavor and identify what I could taste. A few more not-especially-creamy spoonfuls left me rather disappointed, so I tossed the rest — something I rarely do with ice cream in China (or anywhere).

Last year, an American visited an Ice Stone store at another location in Zhongshan and had a different experience:
The ice cream was great though! It came with toppings, a waffle cone and all! We will DEFINITELY be going back there again.
So perhaps I would have better luck with another flavor or Ice Stone store. Or perhaps Ice Stone hasn't maintained the quality of its ice cream. Or perhaps the person has a very different perspective on ice cream. I don't know. Whatever the case, like with the McDonald's Year of Fortune Burgers, I don't feel especially motivated to give Ice Stone's ice cream a second try.

I don't know whether Cold Stone is aware of Ice Stone and whether there is much it has done or can do from a legal perspective. But I do know that I will later have more to share from China about other imitators and, thankfully, better ice cream.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Store Inspired by 7-Eleven: The 1-Eleven Store in Guiyang

A photo of a store, presumably in China, resembling a 7-Eleven gained some attention on Twitter earlier this month:

Brian Ashcraft later shared examples of other stores apparently inspired by 7-Eleven, many not in China.

I'm not sure whether or not I have seen the store in the tweet, but I know I have seen at least one other store which took a similar approach.

1-Eleven Store in Guiyang, China, with a store sign similar to 7-Eleven's

I saw the 1-Eleven store in Guiyang, Guizhou province, almost four years ago. I didn't check to see if it sold 1UP, but the "TM" symbol representing "trademark" on the store's sign made it extra special. I doubt the store now exists since since other signs posted at the time indicated it would be closing.

7-Eleven doesn't currently have any stores in Guiyang, but it does have stores in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin, and a number of cities in Guangdong province. Somewhat similar to imitators I have seen of KFC and McDonald's, the 1-Eleven store could at least be symbolic of an opportunity existing for 7-Eleven to further grow in China.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Hot Pot Restaurant in China with the Golden Arches

In Changde, Hunan province, I was not surprised to see a sign with the well-known logo of a American fast food restaurant chain.

McDonald's sign in Changde, Hunan

I was also not surprised that a busy McDonald's could be found next to the sign.

I was a bit surprised, though, to see only a short walk away a similar looking logo on a sign for the restaurant Moguofang (魔锅坊).

sign for Moguofang using a logo similar to McDonald's

The restaurant, located in an underground shopping center, also sported the familiar-looking logo on its storefront sign.

storefront sign for Moguofang using a logo similar to McDonald's

Moguofang's golden arches aren't exactly the same as the Golden Arches, but I doubt most people would be aware of any difference without directly comparing them. At least the apparently inspired-by-McDonald's restaurant, Wichael Alone, that I previously saw on a trip to Wuzhou had flipped the arches. The Moguofang example reminds me more of a restaurant in Shanghai with a logo similar to the one for Google+.

Moguofang is a restaurant chain and the questionable logo doesn't appear in any photos I have found online of its locations in cities such as Changsha and Shanghai. The logo also doesn't appear on the website for Moguofang. So it is possible the logo is just a local inspiration.

Finally, no, you can't buy a Big Mac at Moguofang. But if you want a spicy hot pot, then you are in luck. Try asking for a McHotpot.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Google+ and g+ The Urban Harvest in China

Google+, like most of Google's other online services, remains blocked in China.

This is the secondary logo for Google+:

secondary logo for Google+

g+ The Urban Harvest is not blocked in China and will soon open another location in Shanghai at the popular Grand Gateway 66 shopping mall.

This is their sign at the mall when I recently passed by:

sign for The Urban Harvest with a green logo very similar to the Google+ logo

Described on Time Out Shanghai as "equal parts open lab and restaurant", g+ The Urban Harvest states on Shanghai WOW!, "we believe that freshness and sustainability play key roles in maintaining a healthy and natural lifestyle". According to company's website, which at the moment is largely nonfunctional, the "g+" stands for "Green Plus".

This is not the only time in China "g+" or "g plus" has been used as part of a name for a business, including some which existed prior to Google+. For example, the now-closed Club G Plus opened in 2006 in Shanghai and used "G+" in its logos.

G+ logo for Club G Plus in Shanghai

Nonetheless, the similarity of the g+ The Urban Harvest logo and the Google+ logo is remarkable. I can't add much more to this tale, but for more information about the restaurant you could download the Urban Harvest app on iTunes.

screen shot of iTunes page for the Urban Harvest app

Unsurprisingly, they don't appear to offer an app on Google Play.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mr. Bean Furniture in China

At a large furniture mall in Changde, Hunan, this store especially caught my attention:

No. 1 Lovely Bean (小憨豆) store in Changde, Hunan

Mr. Bean can be appreciated for more than just the humor he provides, and the furniture store's branding raises issues about how Mr. Bean is perceived in China. It was not the first time I have seen a No. 1 Lovely Bean (小憨豆) store in China. The company (成都雄峰家具有限公司) is based in Chengdu, Sichuan, and they have shared photos of their team conducting assorted activities, perhaps in team or Mr. Bean spirit. You can learn more about the company on its website (in Chinese).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Numerical Bart Simpson Snack Store in Hengyang

A local chain store with a notable sign in Hengyang, Hunan, sells a variety of snack foods, many imported.

527 零食汇 store sign with image of Bart Simpson's head

The use of Bart Simpson's image on the sign raises the common issue of trademark and copyright infringement in China. And the store's name, 527 零食汇, highlights how technology has influenced the use of numbers in Chinese language. In Chinese, the numbers 5-2-7 are a near-homophone for the phrase "I love to eat". Combined with the first two Chinese characters, the sign reads "I love to eat snacks". For more about how technology has influenced the adoption of numbers for expressing Chinese language, see the piece "The Secret Messages Inside Chinese URLs".

I took a quick look inside the store. I didn't see any snacks I wanted at the time, but due to the hot weather I was especially happy to pick up a brand of bottled water I would not expect to find in Hengyang.

Bottle of Vita pure distilled water

Vita bottled water is from Hong Kong and, like other products from the Special Administrative Region, would typically be considered an import. I doubt I could distinguish it in a taste test, but, like the image of Bart Simpson, the branding connected me to a far away place.

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Easy-to-Identify Knockoff Chanel Shirt in China

Knockoffs of well-known international clothing brands are a far more common sight in China than imitations of well-known international hotel brands. Just how common is not simple to pin down though. Depending on the degree and quality of the imitation, it can be challenging to identify knockoffs based purely on their appearance, especially if one is not familiar with the brands. For example, today in Hengyang, Hunan province, I saw someone wearing what appeared to be a Chanel shirt.

young woman in China wearing a possible knockoff Chanel shirt

After a quick check of Chanel's website, I now see that the shape of the two interlocked letters in the logo seems less circular than the interlocked letters in Chanel's standard logo, but I am still not sure whether the shirt is a knockoff or not. I would not be surprised if Chanel could provide a very quick answer.

In contrast, there are other shirts I feel confident labeling as knockoffs even without checking a website or consulting a fashion expert. For example, also today in Hengyang, I saw someone wearing a shirt with what is clearly only an imitation of Chanel's brand.

woman in China wearing a shirt with an imitation of Chanel's logo and the word 'FAKE'

As everyone knows, the interlocked letters in Chanel's logo don't have rounded ends. Sometimes it is so easy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Brand Names Can Set Expectations Even for Known Imitators in China

In an article in The New York Times about the imitation of well-known international brand names in China's hotel industry (HT Helen Gao), Julie Weed shared a viewpoint from one international hotel:
“We do take steps to protect our brand, " said Sian Griffiths, director of communications for the Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel. “However, we also feel that our target customers are sufficiently discerning not to confuse the Peninsula-branded hotels with the copycats.”
But an example Weed shares shows why The Peninsula Hotels may still have reason for concern:
Li Quan, a pharmaceutical sales representative traveling on business this week in Shanghai, said he knew the Hengsheng Peninsula International Hotel was not part of the international Peninsula chain, but believed it would be an “upscale hotel because of the obvious name resemblance.”

He was disappointed to find “so-so facilities and worse-than-average service,” and said that some domestic hotels tried “to boost their value and brand awareness by sharing names with other reputable hotel chains so they can achieve a make-believe attachment to those hotels.”
Using similar logic as Li, people may also buy mobile phones, such as the iPncne I saw in Yinchuan, even if they are recognized as imitating a well-known international brand. Several years ago in a post about how local rates, fashion, and fakes are relevant to mobile phones in China I shared a relevant example from Shuolong, Guangxi:
Her dream phone was a Nokia. Not because of any concerns regarding fashion but because she believed it would be very reliable and rugged. However, a real Nokia phone was not a possibility given their relatively high price so she wanted to get a fake Nokia phone since it would be cheaper.

Unlike many other examples I've seen of purchasing fake products, her choice of a fake Nokia versus other relatively inexpensive options did not appear to be driven by how others around her would perceive the product. It was about her own internal expectations for what the product could provide to her based on its name - even though it would be a fake.
The hotel and mobile phone examples show if brand X's name is used in some way by an known imitator in China, people can have an expectation that an X-ish level of quality or type of experience will be delivered. If the imitator is then chosen, those expectations may positively color later perceptions, or they may draw attention to any shortcomings. That brand names can have such powerful carryover effects for known imitators is yet another sign of their value.

Surely this effect is not limited to only hotels and mobile phones. And it is one reason why customers' being able to distinguish genuine from imitation isn't necessarily enough for a company to avoid losing business to its imitators.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Starbucks Gangnam Style Arrives Before Starbucks in Zhanjiang

According to an outdoor promotional video at a new mall under construction, the first Starbucks in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, will soon open. But already one can see signs of Starbucks here.

back of a t-shirt with a Gangnam Style Starbucks logo

Possibly inspired by a modified cup, this Gangnam Style Starbucks shirt isn't sold at Starbucks, even in China. However, like the girl in the photo, you can buy it on Taobao. After a quick search, the lowest price I saw is 9.9 RMB (about U.S. $1.60), though a more typical price seems to be around 20 RMB.

With disappointment in her voice, the girl told me she has never been to a Starbucks. She perked up when I told her about the soon-to-open store. I wonder if she knows her Starbucks drink might cost more than her shirt.