The Week in China: VW Nostalgia, Kung Fu Chili Pepper, McDonald's Mega Fries and more

Posted by Abe Sauer on May 17, 2013 01:46 PM

China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand's future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who's got the time?! Here's the week's reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: VW gets nostalgic... Luxury brands suffer... Starbucks canbalizes itself... Apple "ruins" family life... Translating cat app... Tencent profits... BYD... Let Li... Dutch infant formula... What Taobao can tell you about breast size... McDonald's McCafe absurdity... Face toothpaste... What a poorly made $30 hamburger reveals about China's middle class... and more.Continue reading...

political brands

Abenomics: The Bras and Skirts of Japan's Branded Political Legacy

Posted by Abe Sauer on May 14, 2013 12:42 PM

The "Branomics Bra" lingerie package aims to piggyback on Japan's booming economic growth to "help bust sizes to get bigger." Wishful thinking.

"Branomics" is just the latest marketing stunt attempting to capitalize on Japan's craze for "Abenomics," itself an all-or-nothing marketing stunt created as part of an ambitious rebrand of Japan's top politician. The "Branomics" package comes with a bow and arrow for good reason. A core detail of Prime Minister Sinzo Abe's "Abenomics" is the "three arrows" for growth: stimulus spending, monetary policy shifts and regulation easing.Continue reading...

brands under fire

GM's "Racist" Ad Just the Latest in Long Line of Asian Mockery

Posted by Abe Sauer on May 2, 2013 12:32 PM

For its ad stereotyping Asians, GM has offered the standard 'we're sorry you're so easily offended' apology, with a brand spokesperson saying, "Our intent was not to offend anyone and we’re deeply sorry if anyone was offended."

In fact, it really is not a surprise that GM wouldn't immediately recognize the ad as offensive. While brands now go out their way to avoid racism targeting many groups, Asians are still typically not on the vigilance radar. Heck, even Iron Man 3, a film that has been criticized for pandering to Chinese interests, couldn't resist throwing a little barb in about how poor the Chinese are at English. (see above; "Man Iron").

GM added that it would make sure "this never happened again." Maybe not at GM, but this will happen again. It was just in 2002 that popular youth clothing line Abercrombie & Fitch was slammed for a line of Asian-themed shirts including one reading, "Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White." The brand's response? "It's never been our intention to offend anyone." Sound familiar?Continue reading...

brand roadmaps

It's No Secret: JCPenney Says 'We're Sorry' and 'Come Back' with Social Media Blitz

Posted by Dale Buss on May 1, 2013 06:12 PM

JCPenney's brand-resuscitation efforts continued today with a digital-era form of a classic corporate move: the mea culpa.

The company launched a virtual apology tour on Facebook, YouTube (watch below) and Twitter to get the message out to customers—those same customers that now-ousted CEO Ron Johnson in large part ignored for more than a year—that the brand is sorry and wants them to come back.

According to Bloomberg, the campaign was developed on Johnson's watch and implemented by Sergio Zyman, the former Coca-Cola marketing executive who will go down in history as the architect of the New Coke fiasco.Continue reading...


The Week in China: Apple Woes, KFC Chicken Donations, Spring Air's French Maids and more

Posted by Abe Sauer on April 26, 2013 12:45 PM

China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand's future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who's got the time?! Here's the week's reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: Apple's slow(er) sales... Quake relief PR... Japan's sales woes... Electric vehicle hopes... Rolls Royce driving... Retail trends... China's oldest scissors maker... Ai Weiwei "snap bracelets,"... liquor ad increase... Boo-hoo Yahoo... Caterpillar... Airbus... Airline outfits... Desperate hotels... A giant rubber duck... and more.Continue reading...

brand strategy

McDonald's Japan Turns to Dancing Crew to Boost Floundering Sales

Posted by Abe Sauer on April 22, 2013 12:46 PM

"Stronger marketing" was one of the four identified strategies in a late 2012 "growth strategies" report from McDonald's Holdings Japan. The chain desperately needs some positive strategy in Japan, where McDonald's has reported 12 consecutive months of decreasing sales and a nearly 18 percent drop in operating profit.

Stronger marketing includes recruiting quality employees and brand ambassadors. To this end, McDonald's Japan has introduced the "Dancing McCrew," a viral hit about dancing through the workday.Continue reading...


Gap Proposes Franchising, Seamless Shopping in Plan for Global Expansion

Posted by Mark J. Miller on April 19, 2013 03:46 PM

Gap has had rough times in recent years, with hundreds of store closures and executive swaps. But the clothing company is hedging a unique plan that it hopes will help it continue growing market share worldwide under the helm of its new, more focused Creative Director Rebekka Bay. 

Glenn Murphy, the company’s chairman and CEO, rolled out the blueprint Thursday, noting that the brand aims to franchise Old Navy locations internationally, add Old Navy and Banana Republic stores to the brand’s presence in China and have a stronger push across all channels for all of its brands, including Athleta, Piperlime and Intermix, Mediapost reports

"We see [the opportunity for global growth] particularly in some countries where in our category, you're talking about double-digit growth just to keep up with the market," an exec said during the call, according to, which named China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia as a few of the countries in question. Old Navy is expected to be the first of the Gap brands that goes into Asian markets that it hasn’t entered just yet. Up to 85 stores are expected to be opened before year’s end and 10 of those will be outlets.Continue reading...


Chicken Brands Scramble to Reassure Consumers as Chickpocolypse Hits China

Posted by Abe Sauer on April 15, 2013 10:45 AM

"A friendly reminder: Kyochon Restaurant's chicken is all supplied by the Tyson Company of America. All chicken products pass strict inspection and quarantine and quality controls. All chicken products are cooked above 174° C for more than 15-18 minutes and are freshly prepared. So, everyone has nothing to worry about."

So read the second of two Weibo messages posted Sunday about H7N9 from the South Korean fried chicken chain Kyochon, the first of which asked and answered the question, "Recently, is it true one shouldn't eat chicken?" 

Meanwhile, on Tyson's Weibo account, the chicken supplier similarly asked, "Recently H7N9 avian flu has everyone running scared, should poultry and livestock meat be avoided?" Then there's KFC. Poor, poor KFC.Continue reading...

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