One mooncake wears a thong. Another, called the "full monty," is a bare buttocks. One other mooncake, called "spread my cheeks," is exactly what it says.
The very unconventional line of mooncakes comes from Hong Kong's cheeky design maves at lifestyle brand/retailer G.O.D. (short for "Goods of Desire") and it, according to Jingdaily.com, "puts the 'moon' in mooncakes."
If G.O.D.'s line of China's traditional Harvest Festival pastries is far too risqué, there is certainly no want for alternatives. Yes, it is that time again in China, the lunar full moon holiday with more brands than ever racing to mooncake Chinese costumers into submission.
In 2011, mooncakes were estimated to be a 10 billion yuan ($1.61 billion) business. The business is so lucrative there is even a mooncake tax and a mooncake black market, even mooncake trademark wars.
Meanwhile, where just a few decades ago, China's consumers have only a handful of mooncake variations to choose from, today choices range from cakes embedded with gold leaf to those of international name brands.
One of the boons to any foreign brand operating in China is the ability to market dual cultural traditions. For example, Starbucks heavily markets its Christmas offerings but also targets the Harvest Festival, this year falling on Sept. 30.
In Starbucks across China, branded mooncake displays have been up for a few weeks. Starbucks has been doing branded mooncakes for a half decade now. It's a promotion that is hardly unique anymore as Nokia, Godiva, Dove, Dairy Queen, and Haagen-Dazs (in addition to just about every luxury hotel) all have branded mooncakes. Ditto, Angry Birds and Hello Kitty (via HK's Maxim's chain).
Taking a page from Starbucks' playbook, Dunkin Donuts — which, late to China, has launched an expansion program including pork shred donuts — has even offered its own branded mooncakes this year.
While Starbucks, seen in China as a premium brand, received a lot of attention for the uniqueness of its mooncake collection a few years ago and expanded them throughout relevant Asian markets (including Malaysia, below) how will it fare now that such promotions are commonplace?
Avery Booker, editor of Jingdaily.com, which specializes in China luxury markets, tells brandchannel, "I'd say standing out in the branded mooncake market really hinges on ingredients and the popularity of the brand in question among younger consumers. Those who buy mooncakes for gifting purposes, older consumers, will probably keep buying from old established brands rather than a Starbucks or Haagen-Dazs."
Booker says that the key to the branded mooncake is the brand's popularity, and the group that values such foreign brands are younger. And to reach this younger, more open-minded consumer, Avery recommends playing with with interesting fillings or to tie the mooncake promotions to some kind of value-added campaign. This is exactly what Starbucks has done, this year offering mooncakes with flavors including Colombian coffee hazelnut and chocolate passion fruit.
So what about the prospects for G.O.D.'s cheeky offerings? They certainly are targeted at youth and definitely "play" with traditions. Avery says, "I think they'll have limited appeal, but like all of G.O.D.'s products they will be really popular among a certain, probably Hong Kong native, consumer." Avery notes that Hong Kong buyers, like U.S. and other western consumers, appreciate a more postmodern approach to tradition.
As for China, Avery says, G.O.D.'s mooncakes might be just a little too much too soon. "Some younger people in top tier cities will likely find them funny, but G.O.D.'s mooncakes are a bit too risqué for the mainland China market, and most there wouldn't even think of giving them to friends or family."